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*ORLD lO^ 

HERE the reader will find revealed 

the strange yet indisputable facts 
of present day Witchcraft. A fasci¬ 
nating story from beginning to end. 


Its Power in the World to-day 

William Seabrook addresses this book 
to rational people only. It consists 
of the candid adventures of a great 
reporter among living witches in the 
world today. It is one man’s testi¬ 
mony to the existence and the limita¬ 
tions of witchcraft now. It is the low- 
down on actual sorcery (Black Magic 
and White Magic too) by one who 
confesses not merely to have wit¬ 
nessed the stuff, but to have been a 
practitioner himself, for both good 
and evil. 

In his earlier great books of travel 
and adventure, Seabrook left many 
questions concerning witchcraft wide 
open, and suppressed many episodes 
because their treatment would have 
seemed out of place. But these things 
cannot stay suppressed : the dirty do¬ 
ings of modern witches, white and 
black; the current sorcerers, incanta¬ 
tions, human vampires on the Riviera; 
panther men in Africa and Satanists in 
Paris ; Devil worshippers in New York 5 
werewolves in Washington Square. 
Take these things how you will, there 
are observed experiences which remain 
intractable, and there are stories which, 
for fascination and for candour, beat 
anything that you have ever read. 

(For note about the Author , see back flap 
of jacket ) 



7 / 4-2 

Digitized by the Internet Archive 
in 2017 with funding from 
Wellcome Library 


Its Power in the World To-day 


Published also in Dutch, French, 
Hungarian, Swedish, and Arabic. 


Published also in Czech, French, Ger¬ 
man, Italian, Spanish, and Swedish. 


Published also in Danish, French, 
German, Italian, and Swedish. 


Published also in French and Portu¬ 


Published also in French, German, 
and Spanish. 


Published also in French and Swedish. 


Published also in Swedish. 


Its Tower in the World 






First published 1941 
by George G. Harrap 6 r Co. Ltd. 
182 High Holborn, London, W.C.i 

Copyright. All rights reserved 

Made in Great Britain. Printed at the St Ann s Press, 
Timperley, Cheshire 

Author's Mote 

r pHIS book is factual. Nearly all the names of 
A people and places are obviously and recogniz¬ 
ably real. In a few rare instances it has been 
necessary, however, to change names and locales 
in order to protect certain people in high places 
who are still alive. 


Exploding a Non Sequitur 
perched on the Horns of a Dilemma 

A LTHOUGH this book may boil and bubble with the dirty 
doings of modern witches, white and black; with present- 
day sorcerers, incantations, human vampires on the Riviera; 
panther-men in Africa and Satanists in Paris; devil worship¬ 
pers in New York; werewolves in Washington Square; witch¬ 
craft cures and killings of to-day in the United States—it is 
going to be a disappointment to all who believe in the super¬ 

I am addressing it to rational people only. It is going to 
show them, if I can, that while witchcraft is not demoniac, 
it is a specific, real, and dangerous force, evil when used 
for evil, mysterious in some of its manifestations, but always 
analysable, always understandable within the bounds of 
reason, and combatable in consequence, like crime, snake 
bite, insanity, and yellow fever. 

A thousand books, histories, and treatises were written in 
the age of superstition to prove that this deadly snake was 
a basilisk. Another thousand volumes have been written 
in our age of so-called reason to prove that, since the snake 
is not a basilisk, it consequently cannot bite you. I am a 
firm disbeliever in basilisks, but also a disbeliever in non 

I have outgrown the puzzlement, and outgrown too the 
attitude of willing and romantic wonder, which characterized 
some of my earlier books. It was never an attitude of super¬ 
stitious credulity, and I tried never to let it interfere with 
honest and objective—if sometimes too sensational—report¬ 
ing. My puzzlement was completely sincere. I left many 
questions concerning the limitations of magic wide open be¬ 
cause I did not know the answers, and suppressed many epi¬ 
sodes because their treatment would have seemed out of 




place in books of travel and adventure. Travel and adventure 
is a surface subject, and they were surface books. For a long 
time I didn't know what to do with the under-the-surface 
material. Conversations with Dr Alexis Carrel after I'd re¬ 
turned twice from Africa did not help. He believes that white 
magic (Lourdes), and black too, can wield a power over the 
organic—including the inflicting and healing of gaping 
wounds—which by ordinary definition comes pretty close to 
the edge of the supernatural. I have never seen anything to 
confirm that great biologist’s credulity. I learned, ten years 
after the event, that my ^ little black girls pierced with 
swords ” had been either phony or the victims of a particularly 
ugly ritual murder. 

When you see phenomena of that sort, criminal or harmless, 
whether in Africa or India, in a spiritualist seance or at a 
Coney Island side-show, it is always either crime, trickery, or 
innocent illusion. The lady sawn in two at Coney Island and 
the rope trick in India are out of the same rabbit hat—and I 
hope my little girls were. 

Despite all that, I was hooked for years on the horns of a 
dilemma which I am now trying to solve in this book. It was 
the only pair of horns I brought back from Africa, and many 
a time I’ve wished I’d left them there. They are not nice to 
live with. 

Here was the dilemma, from which this work has slowly 

A confirmed disbeliever in the supernatural, refusing to 
believe in demons, jungle gods, and devils, refusing for that 
matter even to believe in spiritualism, telepathy, clairvoyance, 
or ghosts, I yet became convinced after years in the jungle 
that the witch-doctors wield a seemingly ‘ occult ’ power, 
deadly, dangerous, and real. Taking the commonest manifes¬ 
tation for an example, I became convinced they can kill by 
the use of witchcraft solely—that is, by pure sorcery, without 
recourse to poison, pseudo-accident, violence, or any chemical- 
physical-material contributory causes whatsoever. 

I lived hand in glove with sorcerers who possessed and used 
this power, and who finally gave me, I believe, as full a measure 
of their confidence as any native ever had, but while they 
exposed their sometimes hideous technique, they were totally 



unable to throw any light on what for me was the crucial 
problem, because they themselves believe profoundly in the 
supernatural sources of the power they wield, believe with 
deep conviction in their old jungle demon-gods. 

There are charlatans, crooks, and fakers among African 
witch-doctors, just as among ‘ doctors ’ in New York and 
London. I am writing here about the sincere and real ones. 

I was sure they were completely wrong in their belief, but 
equally sure they possessed a power of some sort. They pos¬ 
sessed also the pragmatic knowledge of how to aim, focus, 
and wield it with an appalling efficiency. It was not easy for 
me to reconcile the two elements: 

1. Delusion in the operator concerning the nature of his 
tool or weapon. 

2. Pragmatic efficiency in the use of it. 

To clarify that preliminary point for myself I devised an 
analogy which I am willing to stand on. I call it the “ gun 
analogy/’ and here it is: 

I ask you to imagine a hypothetical man, a savage if you 
like, who has a keen natural intelligence, but is totally igno¬ 
rant of gunpowder, explosives, ballistics, firearms. He sees in 
action a heavy modern automatic pistol. He sees it used. He 
sees it close up. He studies it with ignorance of its essential 
nature, but with keen, not stupid, eyes. He subsequently 
obtains possession of it, loaded. He doesn’t know what it’s 
loaded with. But he knows pragmatically that if you release 
the safety catch, point it at your intended victim, and pull 
the trigger you get a loud noise, a flash of fire, a whiff of 
smoke, while the victim lies blasted with the top of his head 
blown off or a hole in his belly. Now this hypothetical gun¬ 
man has invented a false theory. He believes with a profound 
conviction that what has killed his victim is the loud noise, 
the flash of fire, the whiff of smoke. He is superstitiously 
wrong about the nature of the power he wields, but he has 
learned to wield it with deadly efficiency. Here, I believe, 
is a parallel with the psychology of the true witch-doctor, the 
true sorcerer, the true witch. If you grant the parallel I’m 
sure you will carry the analogy a step further. I suggest to 
you, in the cases of both my hypothetical gunman and the 
witch-doctor, that the victim is just as dead and the operator 



just as guilty as if no ignorance or superstition had been con¬ 
nected with the death. Delusion as to the nature of power 
doesn’t necessarily render the power nil or harmless, nor make 
of the sorcerer or witch a poor, misguided soul to be smiled 
at, pitied, and acquitted because he or she has merely stuck 
pins into a doll instead of sticking a knife into a neighbour’s 
gizzard. The true witch in history, like the witch to-day, is 
not and never was the pitiful, deluded victim of an empty 
superstition. The fact that many innocent old women and 
occasional young ones were wrongly convicted and burned at 
the stake is the tragic side-truth most emphasized in history, 
but it isn’t the whole truth about witchcraft. 

All primitives and more than half the literate white popu¬ 
lation in the world to-day believe in witchcraft, and no amount 
of false rationalization, no spread of higher education, can 
ever shake that belief, because witches still live, operate, help, 
harm, cure, and kill without recourse to scientifically accredi¬ 
ted means of curing and killing. This believing majority is 
right in the belief that witches wield real power, but wrong 
in supposing it to be supernatural. 

I am proposing to prove that witchcraft is simply the dark, 
reverse image of a familiar coin which has become common 
currency in the everyday fields of psychology and education, 
and particularly in the now almost equally familiar specialized 
fields of medical psychology, psychiatry, and mental therapy . 1 
I intend to prove that ‘ suggestion ’ pure and simple is the 
elemental key to witchcraft’s power, and believe I can give its 
complete definition in two simple words: 


I am using these words in their simplest and not too tech¬ 
nical connotation. By ‘ suggestion ’ I mean no more than that 
if people keep telling you that you are nervous you are likely 
to become so, even though you had no inherent tendency in 
that direction. By ‘ induced ’ I mean no more than that the 
germs of the suggestion have been deliberately implanted in 
you from outside sources. By ‘ auto ’ I mean that the sugges¬ 
tion has taken root, and that you begin to evolve your own 

1 See Appendix, pp. 231-236. 



worries and fears—that the suggestion implanted from the 
outside begins to ‘ eat in on you/ I don’t mean anything 
subtle, hypnotic, or esoteric. I mean that you can take any 
mentally and physically normal, balanced person—child, 
adolescent, or adult—in your own home or in your neighbour’s 
home. Keep telling him he is awkward, keep harping on it. 
He will presently knock over something by sheer accident, 
as we all occasionally do. Now take advantage of the acci¬ 
dent. Keep harping, and you’ll keep him awkward all his life. 
Keep asking what’s the matter with his feet, keep harping on 
it—and he’ll presently begin to stumble. Keep telling him he’s 
sick, keep harping on it—and he’ll presently begin to feel 
awful, go to bed, call in the doctor. Here, shorn of labels, 
technique, and paraphernalia, is the essence of ‘ black magic.’ 
It is the dirty side and reverse image of all mental therapy. 

Now dress up induced autosuggestion with the superstition 
technique and paraphernalia of the jungle, or of medieval 
diabolist tradition. Pierce the doll with needles. Bury the lock 
( of hair. Howl and chant the incantations. Beat the drums. 
] Tom-toms and incantations have a terrific emotional impact. 
The drums are as elemental as your own pulse and heart-beat. 
The incantations, analysed, have the repetitive simplicity, the 
direct emotional appeal, of Edith Sitwell, Gertrude Stein, and 
Mother Goose. Nursery rhymes from hell. When you add 
superstition, fear, and horrid paraphernalia—you have ex¬ 
plained the curse that came upon the Lady of Shalott. You 
have explained why the Pennsylvania hex 1 murders of 
witches by the intended victims may have been legitimate 
» homicide in self-defence. In Africa you have explained the 
[ jungle death curse, the Great Ouanga. 

If this theory of mine is true, that witchcraft: lodges solely 
in the mind and emotions, we can begin immediately to limit 

I witchcraft’s powers, and to consider a number of forced corol¬ 
laries which I propose to present and examine: 

i. The intended victim must know —that is, must literally 
have been informed of—what is being done against him. 

2. He must fear it. He must become at some time afraid 
of it, either consciously or subconsciously. I believed for a 
I while that, if my theory stood up, he must have a conscious 

i See Appendix, pp. 237-243. 



fear. I have since learned, not from the witch-doctors, but 
from Drs A. A. Brill, Smith Ely Jelliffe, and the consensus 
of their colleagues, that conscious and rationalized absence of 
fear doesn’t necessarily create immunity. The intended victim 
may be armed with complete intellectual disbelief, defiance, 
scorn, against the witch-doctor’s mumbo-jumbo, but if a resi¬ 
due of unconscious or subconscious fear is there he may suc¬ 
cumb even more quickly than the victim whose fear is on the 
surface. This is an unpleasant thought, and I was sorry when 
I learned it. I have never been able to authenticate a case in 
which knowledge on the part of the victim was absent, but 
have known a number of cases in which the victim seemed 
unsuperstitious, and seemed to have no conscious fear—yet 
succumbed to the witch-doctors. 

3. A third obvious corollary is that if true witchcraft oper¬ 
ates through the mind and the emotions it can operate only 
functionally, and can operate only on animate, sentient beings. 
I am convinced that this is true. I am convinced that not all 
the witchcraft in Africa or that ever existed in Egypt or medie¬ 
val Europe can move the tiniest pebble or break the thinnest 
glass—without resort to 4 stage magic,’ to trickery, legerde¬ 
main, stage props, illusion. It can’t break an egg or the most 
fragile wine-glass—much less knock down stone walls or open 
locks—and it can’t mend a broken egg either. It can’t knock 
Humpty Dumpty off the wall, and it can’t put him together 
again. If Humpty Dumpty’s an egg witchcraft cannot even 
make him wobble. If Humpty Dumpty’s sentient witchcraft 
can make him fall off the wall and perhaps break his neck— 
but that’s a different field of force entirely. In the physical 
field of stage magic I don’t believe there has ever been or 
ever will be a jungle sorcerer or Hindu fakir capable of doing 
anything that the late Houdini or the present-day John Mul- 
holland could not duplicate. As for table-tippings, tambour¬ 
ines, and other physical-mechanical phenomena that occur in 
spiritualist stances, I believe, as Houdini did and Mulholland 
does, that they all have a physical-mechanical origin. 

In stripping witchcraft of its supernatural aura, attempting 
its analysis, and endeavouring to define its limitations I am 
aware that one of these limitations on which I propose to stand 



throughout this book will have to be modified, if and when 
Professor J. B. Rhine at Duke University (who followed the 
i late William McDougall, of Oxford, Harvard, and Duke) and 
Gardner Murphy at Columbia succeed in proving the exis- 
r tence of extra-sensory perception, telepathy, clairvoyance. 
Their laboratory work, as yet inconclusive to the majority of 
their fellow-psychologists, has lifted into the field of science, 
j out of the old field of superstition and fortune-tellers’ booths 
at country fairs, the possibility that perception may enter 
through some means other than any of the five senses. If 
l this be true it would open a new, epoch-making vista for honest 
I folk, but would open at the same time the hideous possibility 
J that the witch possesses, and may have always possessed, the 
] power to send out effectively his evil spells, even from a great 
i| distance, without the conscious knowledge of the intended 
1 victim. If there is anything deeper, more dangerous, more 
] mysterious in witchcraft than I am prepared to admit it derives 
] from extra-sensory perception rather than from devils, spirits, 
? ghosts, and demons. To contend that it derives from the super¬ 
natural is simply going back to the nursery-child mind, the 
jungle primitive mind, the superstition-ridden European mind 
r of the Dark Ages. If there is anything deeper, then I contend 
it lies in the yet unproven field which Rhine is exploring. 

If extra-sensory power does exist and anyone possesses it 
it is certain that those who have proclaimed themselves special 
possessors of it and frequently made lasting spots in the 
world’s history for good and evil for close to ten thousand 
years, including spiritualists, illumines, and faith healers, but 
also including Satanists and ‘ faith killers,’ have been using 
it since the dawn of time, and must know more about it 
intuitively and pragmatically than has yet been learned by 
honest scientists in laboratories. 

I visited the laboratories of Professor Rhine at Duke Uni¬ 
versity, and discussed this disturbing corollary of their main 
: thesis with him and his associates. We agreed that if super¬ 
normal forces do exist they can obviously be used—in the 
same way as normal forces such as superior executive ability, 
high explosives, electricity, and the radio—for both good and 
evil. It is an exciting but unpleasant certainty that if Profes¬ 
sor Rhine’s cold cards marked with stars and circles can send 



out any emanations whatsoever that can be picked up by any 
means whatsoever other than the five normal senses, then a 
doll pierced with needles can send out emanations too. This 
side angle, this side issue, is a wide open one—whether it 
touches faith curing and witchcraft killing, the blind reading 
of marked cards in laboratory tests, or your Uncle Charlie’s 
premonition that his wife would be run over by a lorry. I have 
seen things happen among witches and witch-doctors which are 
more startling and superficially convincing than anything your 
Uncle Charlie ever saw by premonition, or than any positive 
result obtained in any laboratory. Yet I remain on the nega¬ 
tive side. I just don’t believe in them. However, I’m going to 
be as fair about it as a man with a set thesis can, in chronicling 
events which have occurred outside all laboratory control— 
outside the possibility of scientific checking. 


W. S. 


Part One 



I. Concerning Dolls in General 19 

II. The Witch’s Doll and its Equivalent 21 

III. Monstrous Doll in Africa 27 

IV. Ten-cent-store Doll in France 38 

V. Wooden Doll in a Cave 46 

VI. Sawdust Doll in Brambles 53 

VII. Doll de Luxe in London 63 

VIII. Nail-studded Doll in Toulon 73 

Part Two 


I. Concerning Vampires and Werewolves in General 91 

II. World Champion Lady Vampire of All Time 94' 

III. Vampire 1932 from Brooklyn, New York 104 

IV. Panther-man from the Ivory Coast 111 

V. Lady Hyena with Jewelled Earrings 117 

VI. The Caged White Werewolf of the Saraban 124 

VII. Werewolf in Washington Square 132 

Part Three 


I. Presentation of an Open Question, to which a 

Negative Answer may not be the Final Word 145 

II. ‘Astral Body’ on a Boat 156 

III. Our Modern Cagliostros 164 




IV. Upton Sinclair’s “ Mental Radio ” 186 

V. W. E. Woodward with a Hatpin Driven through 

his Jaws 197 

VI. Justine Dervish Dangling 206 

VII. Justine in the Mask 215 




Notes on Foreword 231 

Notes on Part One 237 

Notes on Part Two 247 

Notes on Part Three 253 

Part One 



Chapter I 

Concerning Dolls in General 

D OLLS—soulless and intrinsically inanimate reproductions 
of animate human beings, and also of gods, hobgoblins, 
and animals—have held a peculiar and not always wholesome 
fascination for human beings young and old, from the cradle 
to the grave. 

In babyhood they are generally rag dolls, china-headed, or 
dolls stuffed with sawdust. In the nursery they become more 
elaborate, and now include dolls which squeak “ Mamma ” or 
“ Papa ”—and wet their diapers. They also include kewpies, 
Punches, Judys, gnomes, shepherds with their sheep beneath 
the Christmas-tree, and all the little wooden animals that come 
out of Noah’s Ark. Tony Sarg’s puppets are the child’s first 
and greatest joy in the make-believe world of the theatre. All 
these childhood dolls are toys. They are manufactured and 
sold—as toys. As children, we play with them. 

But after we’ve grown up and reached the supposed age 
of reason we so-called civilized whites as well as jungle savages 
fabricate a whole new category of dolls, and what do we do 
with them? We habitually worship them, kiss their brass toes, 
burn them as effigies, adorn them with glittering jewels, and 
travel thousands of miles to kneel before them, ride them on 
rails, beat them with clubs, shoot them, hang them—bless 
them and enshrine them in cathedrals if their cult is popular 
—lynch them if their cult is feared or hated—spend millions 
of dollars on them and enshrine them in museums if their 
cult is dead. 

The emotional reaction of adults towards dolls is by no 
means always limited to worship and violence. Store windows 
on Fifth Avenue contain as many dolls, manikins, and life- 
sized plaster images as St Thomas’s Church or St Patrick’s 
Cathedral—and arouse emotions of admiration, envy, jeal¬ 
ousy, and whatnot in the ladies. Charlie McCarthy is heard 
weekly by audiences as vast as those which listen when his 

l 9 



Holiness the Pope broadcasts from Vatican City. Dolls that 
maintain a steadfast silence, as St Peter does when throngs 
kiss his toe in Rome, or Our Lady of the Immaculate Con¬ 
ception when throngs visit her grotto at Lourdes, already exer¬ 
cise an immense power over a large, intelligent cross-section 
of superior humanity. But when you persuade a doll to speak, 
whether in a broadcasting studio or in a temple, then, indeed’ 
professor, you’ve got something! Whether you’re Edgar 
Bergen in Hollywood, or that old Egyptian priest of Memnon 
who used to make his statue hoot at sunrise, you’re going to 
reach more listeners and be longer remembered than if you’d 
said it with your own simple tongue—or with flowers. 

Dolls of every sort and size have always intrigued humanity 

rag dolls, plaster saints, and brazen idols, images in bronze, 
wood, and marble; kewpies, Teddy bears, Madonnas, and St 
Josephs; Jupiter and Venus, Mammon, Memnon, Vishnu, 
Baal, and Buddha; fashion-decked dummies in windows and 
blood-spattered Juggernauts on wheels; sacred, Satanic, or 
silly, from Donatello’s wooden Christ on the Cross to Bergen’s 
wooden ventriloquist dummy on its owner’s knee. 

I have been a collector and connoisseur of a peculiar type 
of doll for many years—the kind that are made in secret, then 
pierced with needles; or wound round with scarlet death 
thread; or made of wax to melt before a fire. And I propose 
to tell all about them in this book. 

If I have collected more of them than seems credible, or 
know more about them than seems respectable, it is because 
they are all connected with the far-from-respectable subject 
that has been my major interest and obsession all my life. 

If I attribute to these evil dolls a greater power for evil than 
you are at first willing to believe I ask you to remember that I 
shall never contend they are anything more than symbols. 
And I ask you also to remember the incalculable power wielded 
by sacred doll-symbols in the field of religion. I intend no 
blasphemy by this analogy, nor even any shadow of dispar¬ 
agement towards religion. I regard religion, with profound 
respect, as the bright and shining face of the coin whose re¬ 
verse evil image I propose to expose and examine. 

Chapter II 

The Witch's Doll and its Equivalent 

I N most cases where witchcraft plans to blast a human life, 
and to do it by real witchcraft—that is, without recourse to 
knife, gun, poison, or any normal murder methods—a doll or 
doll’s equivalent is used. It can begin by being any ordinary 
doll such as children still play with the wide world over as they 
have since Egypt’s early dawn. While an ancient childish 
symbol, it can become saturated with an equally ancient evil. 
These dolls, generally pierced with nails or needles, or made 
of wax to melt before a fire, or wound round with scarlet 
woollen thread, occur continually in the records and in the 
literature of sorcery in classic times and through the Middle 

They, or their equivalent, occur to-day in nearly all cases 
of so-called ‘ primitive ’ sorcery, whether in Africa or the South 
Sea Islands. They occur also with a steady frequency in the 
United States 1 and in all other civilized countries. 

In its issue of June 19, 1939, the magazine Life published 
a series of Ozark Mountain pictures taken by D, F. Fox and 
captioned by Vance Randolph, of Galena, Missouri. The first 
one shows an Ozark ‘ witch-woman * with a doll of clay and 
beeswax which she had made and named after an enemy. 
Nails are shown driven in the doll to “ hurt corresponding 
parts of the enemy’s body,” It is not a pretty picture, and the 
fact that non-superstitious Missourians mildly protested at its 
publication on the ground that they had lived there all their 
lives and never seen such a doll doesn’t wipe out the picture, 
which is followed in the same issue of Life by the sinister 
photograph of two rag dolls, one dressed as a man and one as 
a woman, laid prone on an altar before a Bible surmounted 
by a skull. Near St Remy, in Southern France, in 1932, I 
helped smash a similar set-up in which the Bible was sur¬ 
mounted by an inverted crucifix on which hung a toad 

1 See Appendix, pp. 237-243. 



crucified head downwards. A doll lay pierced through 
and through with needles, smeared with the toad’s blood, 
and murder had been intended. In the Ozark picture the 
female of the two dolls has had nails driven into its back. 
The caption, written with caution, reads, “ Muttering secret 
spells, a jealous wife hopes to separate her husband from an¬ 
other woman. The dolls represent the adulterous pair.” The 
italics are mine. In the caption under the first Ozark picture 
the nails are described as being driven to “ hurt correspond¬ 
ing parts of the enemy’s body.” I don’t know what Messrs 
Fox and Randolph thought they were playing with. They 
may have merely persuaded some old woman to show 

them how such things are set up, but the pictures stink of 

In August 1939, from Cairo, Illinois, Ben Lucien Burman, 
who had been studying folklore with the roustabouts of the' 
Mississippi river steamboat Golden Eagle, wrote a syndicated 
article in the course of which he recounted a technique by 
which a photograph of the intended victim is used as a sub¬ 
stitute for the doll: “ A sure way to kill a man is to place his 
picture under the eaves at the corner of your house during 
rainy weather and let the water pour upon it.” 

In August and September 1939 the Omaha Evening World- 
Herald devoted columns and pictures to a witchcraft case in 
which the alleged doll substitute had been “ a big piece of 
bone with meat on it, buried under the intended victim’s win¬ 
dow.” This is a variant I have also seen in Africa, but rarely. 

he Omaha case had some curious aspects, including a solemn 
session in Catholic Sokol Hall, with the Press present, the 
police also unofficially present, in which Alfio Laferla, presi¬ 
dent of the Italian-American Societa Risveglio, accused a 

woman of practising witchcraft against his mother-in-law, Mrs 

Grazia Tnno, and of having buried the bone with ancient 
maiana incantations so that “ just as the worms would eat the 
meat off the bone, so would Mrs Trino waste away and die.” 
Mrs Trino meanwhile knew all about it—of course—believed 
it effective—was desperately afraid—became very ill, “ felt her 
flesh melting away.” If my main thesis is true she might well 
ave died, murdered as surely by induced autosuggestion as 
it it had been by arsenic, and may only have survived through 



the exposure of the alleged witch and exorcism of the evil 
spells. At any rate the Risveglio sat in its full regalia, heard 
the accusations and evidence, during which the accused woman 
rose and screamed denials. They found her guilty, and ex¬ 
pelled her from the society. She has sued the society for 
damages and reinstatement, and she may be completely 

In the York, Pennsylvania, hex powwow murder, Novem¬ 
ber 1928, which became a nation-wide newspaper sensation, 1 
that was revived in 1939 by the release from prison of the 
two younger men convicted of participation in the witchcraft 
killing, the doll’s substitute was to be the lock of hair which 
the witch-doctor, John Blymyer, was trying to snatch from the 
head of the rival witch-doctor. Nelson Rehmeyer. They 
fought, you may recall, and Rehmeyer was killed, not by witch¬ 
craft, but by being clubbed and strangled. If Blymyer, how¬ 
ever, had been able to obtain the lock of hair he would have 
done no further violence. He had planned another way—to 
bury the hair eight feet underground, with the old incanta¬ 
tions. If Rehmeyer had known about it and believed it and 
feared it he could be just as dead as he is from being clubbed. 
Blymyer was accused of having caused the death by pure 
witchcraft of other victims. The lock of hair, the doll’s sub¬ 
stitute, was the central object. It is the common history of 
witchcraft to-day, as in the past, that in addition to pure 
witchcraft there occur also continually these by-product mur¬ 
ders by axe, club, gun, knife, or arsenic. Murders of the last 
sort, by a poison ring out to collect insurance, supplied head¬ 
lines during 1939 for columns of Associated Press reports on 
the Philadelphia “ Mass Witchcraft Murders.” Interwoven 
continually with the crime fabric of that drama has appeared 
a warp or background of vicious and authentic witchcraft, used 
here not to kill—they used arsenic for that—but to intimidate 
and terrorize tools, victims, relatives, neighbourhoods. The 
dupes of the arsenic ring who are still alive have amply testi¬ 
fied to this. There is a large Italian population in Philadel¬ 
phia, and Italians figured largely in this picture, among the 
dupes and the conspirators. 

Sometimes the doll’s substitute among Italians is the 

1 See Appendix, pp. 242-243. 


“ Ha nd of Glory ” or the “ Hand of Power,” which may be 
an actual human hand severed and mummified, or a tiny 
hand of ivory or bone with the thumb and two middle fingers 
closed, while the index and little fingers point outward to 
make a pair of horns. Often it is a piece of metal known as 
the knife,” but knife is here a misleading term, since it is 
never used to cut, or as a weapon. Morris Bolber, of Phila¬ 
delphia, who admitted that he practised witchcraft and 
claimed (to evade the electric chair) that he did it as a healer 
and not as a destroyer, possessed such a knife. Its metal was 
no different from that of any tiny knife you buy in any ten- 
cent store. Neither is the plaster in a sacred image or the metal 
in an icon any different from the plaster in a wall or the 
metal in a nail. It had been made * different ’ in its emotional 
field, as plaster saint and icon are made ‘ different' in their 
emotional fields, by a method similar to, but the reverse of, 

First [Bolber disclosed], it was buried for three days and 
three nights in the earth, the open blade buried downward so 
that the spirits might penetrate its steel point and surface. 
Then it was taken from the ground and put under the pillow 
and slept on for three nights. On the seventh day it was put 
in my pocket infused with the spirit that will dominate devils, 
and was ready as the assistant to the witch-doctor. 

We don t need to believe with Bolber, as he claimed, that 
by waving it he could stop an engine or derail a trolley car, 
any more than we need to believe that a sacred image will 
stop the flow of lava from Vesuvius, but if I am right about 
anything, and if the body of medical psychology is right in 
its present-day certainty concerning the relation of nervous 
and mental conditions, then Bolber could start, stop, or de¬ 
rail that is, help, hurt, make ill—any dupe who believed in 
the power of this doll’s substitute. 

During the decade between the York, Pennsylvania, hex 
powwow murder and the Philadelphia witchcraft murders 
there were many other American witchcraft cases and witch¬ 
craft killings. These practices, beliefs, and their attendant 
dangers persist to-day. Not the least of the attendant dangers 
(though this book will not be directly concerned with them) 
is that the terrors and hatreds engendered by witchcraft fre- 



quently lead to plain, brute-mechanical axe, arsenic, strangling, 
and gun murders, as a police-court by-product of the subtler 
crimes and attempted crimes which seldom reach newspapers, 
because they seldom result in arrests. 

I intend presently to take you behind the scenes, in Africa 
and America, in New York, London, Paris, Southern France, 
in my own backyard too, and show you, step by step, how 
those dolls or their equivalent, though endowed intrinsically 
with no supernatural quality and no supernormal power, yet 
work potently for evil. If presently, in getting down to brass 
tacks driven into dolls for murder, I seem to know more about 
these things than any decent white adventurer or author 
should, and seem to have intimate knowledge of so many 
horrors over a period of so many years in so many lands as to 
trangress the bounds of credibility, I beg you to remember 
that black magic has been my lifelong obsession and chimera. 
If there is anything in heredity I must have been tainted from 
birth. There was bad blood in me, from the point of view of 
magic, and it came, mandragora-like, from the best roots of 
my family tree. My only distinguished ancestor was a great- 
great-grandfather on the maternal side, Bishop Peter Boehler, 
of the Moravian Church, who had been a friend of Wesley's. 
He was born at Frankfurt, ordained to the Moravian ministry 
by Count Zinzendorf, and sent to the United States as a mis¬ 
sionary. He worked among the Indians, the Negroes in 
Georgia, and among the Germans in South Carolina, some of 
whom he ultimately transferred to Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, 
where he helped found the Moravian Seminary and College for 
Women. A portrait of him hangs in the vestry of Central 
Church, at Bethlehem. So much for his distinguished impor¬ 
tance. The New International Encyclopaedia says, in addition 
to the above facts, that he was instrumental in aiding the 
spiritual development of the Wesleys. What our family tradi¬ 
tion adds, and what is not in any encyclopaedia, is that my 
distinguished great-great-grandfather was up to his ears in 
black magic. Shortly after he had been consecrated “ Bishop 
of the Moravian Churches in America, England, Ireland, and 
Wales," leaders in the Welsh diocese nearly succeeded in hav¬ 
ing him deposed. The old gentleman ably defended himself by 
admitting that he dabbled in magic, but asserted he had been 



doing it all for the glory of God, seeking to “ fight the devil 
with his own fire.” 

Hair-raising tales of him were told in my nursery, at Gettys¬ 
burg, and whether you choose to attribute it to heredity, or to 
the effect which these tales had upon my young mind, I 
cannot remember when I didn’t have an obsessed curiosity 
about these forbidden things. It sent me eventually to the voo¬ 
doo altars of Haiti, where the priests accepted me as one of 
them and traced their cross in blood on my forehead. It sent 
me later to Africa, and has ridden me all my life. 

. * he showing in successive chapters an intimate, some¬ 
times dangerous, knowledge of witch dolls in actual operation. 
Where to begin has been a problem. I have decided to begin 
with a witchcraft killing which contained all the elements in 
their controlled completeness. 

Chapter III 

Monstrous Doll in Africa 

D URING one of my stays in Africa I had been living alone 
for several months with a native household in a large 
Malinke tribal town, in jungle-mountain country, north-east of 
Bassam. I was studying fetish ritual, religious ceremonials and 
beliefs, and saw little or nothing of the few whites scattered 
in the region. The French fonctiormaires, most tolerant of all 
colonial administrators, had let me consort with the witch¬ 
doctors to my heart’s content. One night my black friends 
said to me: 

“ We have taught you all we can. We are going to send 
you back in the higher mountains where you may learn more. 
There is a great Ogoun. . . . Nahaou-don-ba is one of his 
names, and he is sometimes called Woron. He is a man of 
power, a mighty drinker of banghi like yourself, and if you 
become friends he can disclose further mysteries. 

They gave me additional names, guides, porters, letters. 1 
Before leaving my Malinke friends I went up to the admini¬ 
stration compound, found M. Lauriac at home, thanked him 
1 for his kindnesses, not the least of which had been to let me 
i consort unspied on with the local feticheurs, and told him I 
was headed, with his further kind permission, a hundred miles 
i or so up into the jungle. He asked me to stay to dinner, and 
| during the evening, as we talked about the region I planned 
I to visit, he said: 

“ We’ve had some recent trouble from there, made by a 
| white man who’d have been in gaol long ago back where he 

1 Letters are no longer rare among African witch-doctors. They write 
ill usually in Malinke or Bambara, using phonetic Arabic script, and some- 
ij times phonetic French transliteration. I knew a witch-doctor with panther 
)|{ teeth braided in his hair who possessed a fountain pen, and used it. An- 
H other had a safety razor, and sent three hundred miles to buy new blades, 
ri Another manufactured his own gunpowder, and still another took delight 
lit in an old German gramophone with a green tin horn. He liked best an 
| old record of Johnny made by Marlene Dietrich. 




came from—that damned commercial hunter Albrecht Tellier. 
He has a Belgian passport, and Fve been in a quandary more 
than once what to do about him.” 

“ I know,” I said. “ I’ve met him a couple of times. What 
happened? ” 

“ The same old thing,” Lauriac replied. “ Apparently he 
hired a couple of hundred Yafouba, the whole male popula¬ 
tion of three villages, to go with him for ivory and skins, and 
failed at the end of the hunt to pay them off. His licences 
are all in order, and he’s got some traders down on the coast 
backing him, but if it weren’t bad policy to put a white man 
on public trial with a lot of howling savages as the only wit¬ 
nesses for the prosecution I’d have had him in the jug long 
ago. He’s back here, I’m told, saying it’s the other way round 
—that the Yafouba broke their contract—deserted him.” 

“ Who’s telling the truth? ” 

“ We know who’s telling the truth. It’s happened four or 
five times. He’s failed to pay off more than one expedition, 
and some of the men have never come home to their 

“ I’m surprised they haven’t shot him by 4 accident ’ with 
one of his own guns,” I said. 

“ Not any more,” said Lauriac. “ Unofficially I wouldn’t 
blame ’em, but officially I’d have to hang some of the head* 
men, probably the wrong ones, and they know it. It’s tough 
on the natives when a crooked white exploits them, because 
legal recourse and private retaliation are both pretty difficult,” 

I went away and soon forgot about Albrecht Tellier, whom 
I’d known only slightly, and whose mistreatment of the 
natives was an old story in the region. 

The Ogoun Nahaou-don-ba whose other name was Woron, 
informed of my coming, had prepared a wing of the guest¬ 
house in his own compound. It was mud-thatched, earthen- 
floored, clean, comfortable, and had a spacious veranda which 
I could use as a sleeping porch. Two handsome wenches and 
an old woman, all apprentice sorceresses, were to keep house 
and cook for me. Probably also to spy on me until they de¬ 
cided it was all right. The Ogoun, in robes of soft, bril¬ 
liantly dyed leather, red, peacock blue, and yellow, was corpu- 



lent, powerful, impressive. His first name meant “ Learned 
Scholar,” and his other name meant the “ Big Gorilla.” 
He was a little of both, and was head of what amounted to a 
witch-doctors’ theological seminary, whither I’d been sent by 
my Ivory Coast friends for a sort of post-graduate course. After 
some weeks of hard study I felt I had come to the right place. 
The work—ritual, instruction, ceremonials, incantations—was 
j broken once a week by all-night drunken parties, when the 
Ogoun and I got as roaring tight as anybody. A considerable 
time passed. On the final night, before I was to depart, he 
invited me into his own house for a private conference. 

Said he, “ You know as much theory now as you ever could 
without being born into it. You’re a black man in a white 
i skin. Before you go away we’d like to show you some practice 
. . . work in progress , . . a big enchantment ... a Great 
] Ouanga.” 

Ouanga meant a death-sending, and the Ogoun had put me 
t in a difficult position. He was a tough-minded, intelligent, 
1 practical man, and I said after considerable reflection: 

“ We are on the edge of French territory. The administra- 
!: tion has been kind to me and trusts me. They have lent me 
r motor lorries more than once, permit me to wander freely, and 

I do not spy on me. M. Lauriac, down yonder where I came 
from, trusts me as you do. If it is anything to the hurt of 

) the French, or to the hurt of anybody connected with them, 
] I must not see it.” 

“ It is nothing like that,” said the Ogoun. “ It concerns us 
c only. It is a matter of private justice,” 

They took me next afternoon in broad daylight, in ritual 
t procession with drums, the witch-doctors ceremonially garbed, 
:| and with singers, to a ledge in a dark ravine where they had 
> set up a monstrous ‘ doll * which was more than an effigy. 

It was the guarded corpse of a black man which had been 
requisitioned on his natural death in a neighbouring village. 
As in the case of inanimate dolls, what he had once been was 

I I of no consequence, for they had solemnly rebaptized the 
: corpse by their jungle rites with a new name—with the name 
I] of Albrecht Tellier—and were using it as the ritual symbol 
[J for their concentrated, focused mumbo-jumbo. It had been 

lashed upright against a tree with vine ropes, tarred so that 



it would disintegrate slowly in the jungle sun, rain, mists, and 
night miasmas. Twisted into its black hair were combings of 
Tellier’s own, filched by servants from his comb and brush. 
Fastened to its finger-tips were his own filched nail parings. 
They had dressed the body in one of Tellier’s hunting shirts, 
“ soaked,” as they said, “ in his vital juices.” In plain English, 
an unwashed shirt in which he had perspired. 

Their technique was classic and old as Africa. In the con¬ 
struction of the doll they had combined the two methods 
which Frazer and most anthropologists differentiate under 
the terms of ‘ imitative magic ’ and ‘ sympathetic magic.’ If 
you buy or make a doll, simply dress it up to resemble the 
intended victim, and ‘ baptize ’ it with his name the magic 
is purely imitative. It remains purely imitative if you use a 
picture such as the one described under the eaves in Cairo, 
Illinois, or even a corpse such as this one in Africa, merely re¬ 
baptized with the intended victim’s name. It is purely sympa¬ 
thetic if you use as a substitute for the doll some object 
which has been an actual part of, or has been in physical con¬ 
tact with, the intended victim. The lock of Rehmeyer’s hair 
in the Pennsylvania case was in this sympathetic category. 
Similarly in this category are finger-nail parings, combings, a 
shirt or dress previously worn by the intended victim, stolen 
to rot slowly. When you buy or make a doll, and, instead of 
dressing it with something to merely resemble the victim, 
dress it in something actually previously worn by the victim, 
or fasten upon it the victim’s own hair, you have then, as in 
the case of this monstrous human effigy here in the jungle, 
a combination of the two techniques. Incidentally, any 
learned discussion of their relative intrinsic importance or 
efficacy is jargon, nonsense. The importance is precisely the 
same as whether you make a sacred statue out of plaster or 
carve it out of wood. If you feel that such things can have a 
mysterious intrinsic importance an analogy would lie in the 
question of whether the bones of some saint—some sacred 
relic which had once been part of his anatomy—can be more 
efficacious than a mere statue of him. If you think the saint’s 
bones or bloodstained handkerchief might cure your boils, or 
stop an eruption of Vesuvius, where the saint’s mere statue 
wouldn’t, you are at liberty to suspect that sympathetic magic 


3 1 

[> can be more deadly than imitative. To me they’re all intrin- 
ii sically zero, potent only as symbols on which to focus love 
:t| or hatred, fear or faith. 

Now here in the jungle, as tom-toms began to throb, was 
| focused malignant hatred—and far away down yonder in 
| Albrecht Tellier’s house, as I shall show, was focused fear. 

Invoking all their jungle gods and demons, and invoking 
d them with frenzied faith, the witch-doctors first roared and 
:» howled their unholy hymns, deep bass and screeching treble, 
t| until they judged the demon-gods had heard. Then to a dif- 
t? ferent and simpler steady drum throb they began their magic 
rJ chants, their incantations. Repetition and simplicity. Like 
i London Bridge is falling down and ring-around-a-rosy. A rose 
i is a rose is a rose is a rose. This is the way we wash our clothes 
o so early in the morning. Three blind mice, up and down the 
:>] clock, Mother Goose, Edith Sitwell, echolalia, Gertrude Stein. 1 
I Black Mrs Behemoth, in long steel grass, and pigeons on the 
\i grass alas. Cut off their tails with a carving knife, and sonnez 
w les matines. They were like Frere Jacques and Wee Willie 
I Winkie. Also they were horrible. They sang in a sort of sim- 
i I plified, bastardized Malinke and Bambara: 

Gneni ditni dogomani 
Gneni dimi kounba ba 
Gneni dimi yan dakoro 
Gneni di yoradian! 

Farikolo balole 
A-dama-den sa! 

The words are as simple as any nursery rhyme, and as easy 
1 to translate. What’s difficult to translate—just as it would be 
tj difficult to translate the charming but contagious nonsense- 
) emotional impact of “ A tisket, a tasket, a green and yellow 
i! basket”—is the ugly emotional impact of this doggerel, 
j: accompanied by the rhythmic patter of the drums. The 
: nearest I can come to it, with no talent for nursery rhymes, 
u and sticking to the literal meaning of the words, is: 

A big pain, a little pain, 

A small pain, a great pain, 

Growing here and growing there, 

Growing slowly everywhere, 

While a dead man lives 
And a living man dies! 

1 See Appendix, pp. 243-245. 



When this endlessly repeated doggerel had ceased a little 
woman, monkey-thin, with shrivelled breasts, danced forward 
and did a thin-voiced, cackling solo, while the drummers 
tapped a light treble beat with their fingers on the drum 
rims. It was nursery rhyme again. It was the incantation for 
“ clogging the throat.” As the body disintegrated here, they 
told me, and its throat began to clog and swell, so the man 
down yonder would begin to suffer difficulty in breathing, 
speaking, swallowing. The little monkey-woman sang, smiling 
and grinning, as if chattering sing-song nonsense to a baby: 

Lafa lafa lafa! 

Boli an-ou kli! 

Mina mina mina 
Seguen tji kart hi 
Kesi ka'si kesi 
Baribo sienta 
Banabato Sa-a-a! 

It meant, still translating as literally as I can: 

Choke, choke, choke! 

Devils we evoke! 

Thirst, thirst, thirst, 

Suffer till you burst. 

Cry, cry, cry, 

Try, try, try. 

Die, die, die ! 1 

“ What would happen,” I asked, “ if you stopped all this? ” 
“ He is very sick, but he would get well,” said the Ogoun. 

“ We could stop it by twisting the magic backward, and he 
would not die. But we are not going to do it, and no other 
witch-doctors are going to do it either, for this man has been 
condemned, and justly so, by the forest.” 

“ Could you teach me how magic is twisted backward? ” 

“ I thought you knew it already,” said the Ogoun. “ Since 
you know forward magic, you could teach yourself.” 

“ I might need it some day,” I said. 

“ If it's a doll,” he said, “ you unbaptize it, remove the 

1 Readers who have lived in French West Africa, and probably have a 
knowledge of Malink^ or Bambara, will understand the difficulty, arising 
from the almost childish simplicity of the words, of putting them into 
an English equivalent. No English-Bambara dictionary exists, so far as I 
know, but in 1913 the Librairie Paul Geuthner (13 Rue Jacob, Paris) pub¬ 
lished a pretty good French-Bambara one. 



nails or needles, and burn it in purifying fire. If it’s a lock 
of hair you dig it up and burn it. If we unbaptized this body 
here, removed and burned the hunter’s own hair and nail 
parings, removed and either washed or burned the shirt, and 
then laid the body back in its own name and in its own grave, 
it would lie there in peace, and the man down yonder would 
get well.” 

“ Don’t you think the man would have to know all this? ” 
I asked. 

And the Ogoun replied cryptically: 

“ They always know it.” 

Presently he added, “ There was an older magic by which 
time is twisted backward, so that the forward magic becomes 
as if it never had been, and the man as if he had never been 
sick—as if it had all been a dream, or a thing done by shadows, 
which are as if they never had been, and leave no trace when 
light appears. But it is something nobody can teach you, be¬ 
cause it has been lost.” 

“ Another thing,” I asked, “ and since you tell me this man 
has been justly condemned to die by your forest code, you 
will perhaps not mind giving me a true answer. If by any 
chance the magic didn’t work you’d poison him? ” 

“ When the magic is real,” said the Ogoun, “ poison is never 
necessary. And besides,” he added practically, “ his servants or 
somebody would be caught and hanged. White doctors and 
the white police have a different kind of magic with liquids 
that change colour.” 

My conscience was none too clear, nor was it entirely clear 
just what I might have accomplished if I’d gone and reported 
the whole tale to the administration. They’d have probably 
said, “ Well, we’re not rival witch-doctors. We’re the police. 
If a man’s shot or poisoned, or going to be, we know what to 
do. But demons, jinxes, and Mother Goose rhymes are not 
exactly in our line.” 

I washed my hands of the whole business, like a little Pon¬ 
tius Pilate, borrowed an old Renault, and went clean out of 
the forest, over towards Bobo Dioulasso. Returning two weeks 
later, rolling down towards Bassam again, I got into the edge 
of my own forest, and presently fell in with an old acquain¬ 
tance, a Baouli lorry-driver named Yo-Ouro, nicknamed Joe, 




who was transporting kola nuts north, to return with salt, and 
who had all the latest gossip. Over a couple of bottles of beer 
and a game of belotte Joe said: 

“ There is one piece of news from your town. That Belgian 
saligaud of an Albrecht’s on his deathbed, and nobody’s 

“ What’s he dying of? ” 

Shortness of breath ,” said Joe, with a malicious grin. “ He 
can’t draw his breath any longer. That’s what most of us die 
of, isn’t it? ” 

“ But what’s really the matter with him? ” 

“ He thinks he’s been poisoned,” said Joe, “ and he’s had 
doctors and the gendarmerie and all that, but you’re one white 
man I can tell the truth to. He’s dying because they put the 
Great Ouanga on him—the death Ouanga.” 


I wouldn t know,” said Joe. “ I had a Malinke grand¬ 
mother who knew plenty, but I went to mission school, and 
now I work in a garage. All I know is that when it’s put 
on you, whether you’re white or black, you get sick, and 

When I finally got down there, a couple of weeks later, 
Albrecht Tellier had been dead for a fortnight. Since he’d 
accused the blacks of poisoning him (though Lauriac told me 
there had never been any poison symptoms), a complete 
autopsy had followed, and the result had been—zero. Ever 
since the Dakar yellow-fever clean-up West Africa has had as 
good medical laboratories as exist anywhere, and it is not true 
that mysterious poisons exist which leave no trace and are 
unknown to the materia medica. 

If you ask me,” said Lauriac, “ he cracked up under his 
own fears and a guilty conscience, but I’d like very much to 
know more about it. The natives say it was magic, and I think 
he thought so at the last. But since he was not murdered, 
if he was murdered at all, in any sense that we define as mur¬ 
der in court, I m not going to undertake punishing anybody 
for it. I’d just like to know. . . .” 

‘ So should I,” I said, and I didn’t mean it hypocritically. 

I felt it would serve no good purpose to inflict my private 
knowledge on Lauriac’s official conscience. And I wanted to 



learn, if I could, what had happened down here, in Albrecht 
Tellier’s own household. 

It was Lauriac’s superb black mistress-housekeeper, with 
one ear in the jungle and another close to the Administrator's 
own, who turned up the complete, unequivocal inside story of 
how Tellier’s black entourage , as ignorant of Freud, Jung, 
Adler, and our learned psychology-psychiatry jargon as we 
should be of language spoken on another planet—and on top 
of that believing in the supernatural power of their witch¬ 
doctors and demons—had nevertheless destroyed Albrecht 
Tellier by induced autosuggestion, applied as expertly for 
their sinister ends as it ever is for good in any of our advanced 
medical and psychiatric clinics. 

It had begun when one of Tellier’s native hunters, perma¬ 
nently employed, and pretending deep sympathy for his 
master, had come to him, and said, “ I’ve just had dreadful 
news. A Ouanga has been put on you. Perhaps you have 
already felt it. In a month you will be dead.” 

Tellier scoffed, grew angry, raged, beat the old man, and 
went around saying nobody could play on him with silly super¬ 
stitions. It was either, he said, a scheme to frighten him out 
of the country, or a threat to poison him. He went to natives 
he thought he could trust, and they promised to find out 
what they could. They soon returned saying that, alas, the 
Great Ouanga was indeed in operation, and described it to him 
in all its ugly detail. He checked on his hunting shirts and 
found one missing, as described. The women said it had been 
“ stolen.” Where were the Ouanga? It was hidden far away, 
beyond the mountains. Who were the witch-doctors? Nobody 
knew. They were “ far away,” of “ another tribe.” Natives 
began condoling falsely with him, saying he looked sick, assur¬ 
ing him that he would surely die, telling him more and more 
about the rotting effigy. Pretended pitying old women kept 
supplying him with further details, other * cases.’ He began 
to feel sick, and was sure he had been poisoned. The doctors 
who tended him were sure he had not been poisoned, could 
find nothing the matter with him—and told him so. He had 
sent for Lauriac, demanded protection, arrests. 

“ What can I protect you against? ” had asked Lauriac. “ If 
they have dug up a corpse somewhere and put your shirt on 


it, and you believe in that stuff, I might arrest them—for steal¬ 
ing your shirt. But who are they and where is it? ” 

“ I don’t believe in it! ” Tellier had protested. 

But he was sick, and getting sicker, and how much he be¬ 
lieved by that time is a point on which there can be no control, 
and a point on which not even he himself could have been 

One day after he had become quite ill the old Yafouba nurse 
who had come to his cot with a glass of water said: 

“ Poor M. Tellier. Does your throat hurt yet? ” 

“ No! Why? ” he had demanded. “ And what do you mean 
by yet ? ” 

“ Oh, it will, soon now,” she had pityingly replied, “ be¬ 
cause they are now doing this in the mountain.” And she 
had begun the “ throat clog ” chant, tapping out the rhythm 
with her fingers on the edge of his cot. It was a simple nur¬ 
sery doggerel, sung to a simple drum rhythm, tapped out by 
the old black woman’s horny-nailed, black, wrinkled hands in 
that nursery of death: 

Ta-da-da-da-doom . . . doom 

Ta-da-da-da-doom . . . doom 

Ta-da-da-da-doom . . . doom 

He was already a sick and frightened man. He had lis¬ 
tened to and understood the horrid words, then automatically 
clutched at his throat as if in some new pain, then screamed: 

“ Get out! You’re either crazy or you’ve poisoned me! Or 
am I crazy? ” 

And he soon was crazy, crazed with fear, and crazed by 
new fear-induced difficulty with his throat muscles, difficulty 
in speaking and swallowing. For, from the morning the old 
woman had come in, by day and night from then on to the 
end, his ears were never free from that little tapping rhythm 
whose words he knew. It hadn’t been kept up by an occult, 
astral 'sending.’ And it hadn’t been hallucinated ghost¬ 
tapping inside his own terrified brain. It had been impacting 
relentlessly on his physical eardrums, as the old woman and 
her accomplices, including children, had tapped it out with 
sticks on the bamboo fence towards the forest, on porch rail¬ 
ings of the rambling house in which he Jay; faint, far away, 



then close, receding and returning, day and night. He had 
died of a nervous and functional crack-up, caught in the auto- 
suggested clutch of his own crazed and paralysing fear. 

I have told this as dramatically as I could, not for the sake 
of dramatizing horror, but because it contains all the para¬ 
phernalia, elements, and controls necessary to my thesis. 

If I am right, the corpse effigy and stolen shirt were empty 
symbols. I believe them always to be intrinsically empty. 
They serve two symbol purposes: (i) A focusing point on 
which to concentrate the rituals; (2) an objective means of 
arousing dread in the informed victim. 

Could the witch-doctors have obtained an identical result, 
without ever setting up the effigy at all? I believe they could, 
if they had believed they could. Can a priest pray and per¬ 
form his good works as efficaciously without his rosary? With¬ 
out his holy water? Without his altar? Without the sacred 
image in the consecrated shrine? Of course he can, and does, 
when he believes he can. 

Witchcraft, instead of being superstitious nonsense, is 
mental therapy reversed, with mystery, horror, and supersti¬ 
tion added. 

Ghapter IV 

Ten-cent-store Doll in France 

I HAVE a friend, a certain celebrated Paris journalist, who 
has made a deep study of sorcery and witchcraft all his 
life. Like my maternal great-great-grandfather, he sometimes 
“ fights the devil with fire,” and has been called into consulta¬ 
tion more than once by the French police and by the Roman 
Catholic exorcists of St Sulpice. Fighting evil with its own 
weapons is a dangerous warfare, and my friend has been in 
foul danger more than once. An attempt was made some 
years ago by Satanists from Lyons to murder his little daugh¬ 
ter, a case in which he took the vengeance into his own hands. 

It was through my friend Orlet, as we shall call him, that 
I became a partial participant in the episode of the pianist 
and the doll, which ended less disastrously than murder, but 
cost the young victim his career. In this case what I have to 
tell is partly reconstruction, because the harm had already 
been done on the night when Orlet invited me to drive with 
him out to Le Touquet (Paris Plage), the seaside resort on 
the Channel, and help him burgle, if he could, a certain 
beach bungalow, remote from the town, which contained 
something that ought to be destroyed. It was an isolated shack, 
with apparently nobody at home, and we crept towards it from 
the back, a little after dark. While I kept watch he smashed 
the fastening of a heavy shutter and prised it open. We 
climbed inside, closed the shutter, and began looking round 
with our flashlights. The shack was roughly furnished like a 
camp, or hide-out: a couple of cots which had been recently 
slept in, dirty dishes on a table, an oil stove recently used, over 
in a corner, an old rocking chair. In a closet behind a locked 
door which he had some difficulty in forcing we found a 
carpenter’s wooden vice screwed to the wall, and from it, with 
its hands caught and crushed in the vice, dangled a little doll— 
a cheap modern novelty doll, a tawdry manikin in Lilliputian 
garb, like a puppet in full-dress evening clothes, 




“ I’d like to ram it down their dirty throats,” said Orlet. 
“ If I believed, as they do, in an actual Satan we’d burn it 
here and now. What we’d better do is to take it along as 

On the way back to Paris we stopped at a roadside restaur¬ 
ant, and he showed me a longish Press clipping, a week or two 
old—one of those mixed news-and-gossip stories that imply 
between the lines more than is said in them. What it boiled 
down to was that Jean Dupuis, a brilliant and promising young 
concert pianist, had unaccountably made a sensational botch 
of his first important public appearance, in a small but 
crowded concert hall. He had begun well enough the render¬ 
ing of Beethoven’s Appassionata . . . when suddenly a false 
note, then a succession of jangling chords, followed by worse 
fumbling, had brought whispers and hisses from the outraged 
audience. The young man had stopped playing, half turned 
to the audience, resumed desperately, and, after a ghastly 
parody of the next few bars, had fled from the stage in shame 
and confusion. 

And then came the gossip and comment, as recounted in 
the clipping. “ Neuritis ... a cramp in the fingers,” had said 
his friends, his manager, and the kindlier critics next day. 
“ Bah, he was drunk,” had said others. Or, “ He was a 
bad pianist anyway, and succumbed to stage fright in the 
crucial test.” His budding reputation and career were ruined, 
said the clipping, and suggested, indirectly, that there was 
some sort of unsolved mystery. It ended by adroitly hinting 
that, as in the case of more than one brilliant young French 
artist who had gone to pieces in other fields, the mystery might 
be an addiction to cocaine, if he had absorbed too little, or too 
much, before he sat down at the piano. 

The clipping dropped the mystery there, and it was Orlet 
who supplied the rest of the story. Dupuis’s own privately 
given explanation of what had happened had been so fantas¬ 
tic as to cast doubts on his sanity, but his devoutly Catholic 
mother had believed him, and, as devout Catholics have been 
doing for centuries, told his story to her priest. The priest, 
with her permission, had called Orlet into conference, and 
Orlet, after obtaining a complete confession from the young- 
pianist, who now mentioned certain names and facts he had 

4 o 


withheld, had been busy day and night, aided unofficially by 
the police and by friends in the Paris underworld, in which 
occultism, fortune-telling, fake mysticism in all its racketeer¬ 
ing forms, are rampant. 

The pianist had confessed to Orlet that he had been secretly 
dabbling in the esoteric, including black magic, and had 
joined some months before a dubious sect of so-called 
‘ Rosicrucians ’ who had no honest connexion with the true 
followers of Christian Rosenkreuz. 

With these facts and actual names to go on, Orlet had suc¬ 
ceeded in smoking out the dirty plot. The pianist had made 
enemies who wanted to ruin him, and, since they knew of his 
occult interests, had hired Satanists instead of ordinary thugs. 
As a matter of cold, criminal fact, no matter how strongly 
the Satanists may have believed in their own evil and diseased 
minds that the devil helped them, they had been paid to ruin 
the musician. They had ‘ done their stuff ’ and earned their 

A certain Mere Levin, who lived in Vincennes and fre¬ 
quented the Rue de Lappe, had bought and dressed the doll 
and taken it to Le Touquet, which had become the centre in 
the north for the Black Mass celebrants after M. Chiappe, 
then Prefect of Police, had driven them from Paris. She and 
her associates had performed their unholy baptismal rites over 
the doll, clamped it in the vice, where we later found it, and 
where she had returned from time to time to perform her 
incantations. One might doubt that such witches themselves 
have any real belief in the supernatural, in demoniac emana¬ 
tions of evil from the actual doll, since they seem always to 
see to it that the victim is made to know and fear it. Yet I am 
convinced that, precisely as witch-doctors in the jungle, they 
often do illogically believe in it. 1 

Whether Mere Levin and her associates believed in it or not 
I cannot tell. But, whatever she may have believed, the cumu¬ 
lative job they did by direct, if devious approach, would have 
more than sufficed in its purpose, even if they and the victim 
too had been devoid of superstition. What put Orlet on the 

1 “. . . our witches are justly hanged, because they think themselves to 
be such; and suffer deservedly for believing they did the devil’s mischief.” 


4 1 








3 : 





1 j 



track was the pianist’s confession of a series of ‘ coincidences ’ 
that had worried him. The undermining of his confidence 
had been a slow process. It had taken time. It had cost money. 
And it had proven at the last that some of his own supposed 
friends were Judases. Here are some of the successive steps 
they’d used: 

A musician who visited his study on casual pretext had 
heard him practising, had praised his playing, but had added 
that his finger dexterity seemed slipping a little, and advised 
him to rest for a few days. “ Nonsense,” he’d replied. He 
knew that his dexterity hadn’t slipped, and forgot the epi¬ 

But not long afterwards, one night after he had been play¬ 
ing, a young woman said, “ Have you sprained your hand? ” 
“ Why? ” he had asked in astonishment. “ Do you think I 
played so badly? ” “ Oh, no,” she had evaded. “ I was thought¬ 
less. You played beautifully. It was nothing.” 

A while later a false friend had come to him and said: 

“ Whether you will admit it to yourself or not, there is 
something the matter with your mechanical technique. If 
you’ve a touch of neuritis or something of the sort you ought 
to face it, for your own good, and see a doctor.” 

By this time he had begun worrying and wondering, con¬ 
centrating on the nerves and muscles of his fingers, flexing 
and moving and testing them when not at the keyboard, 
becoming cerebrally conscious of his fingers, which meant 
self-conscious about movements which should be purely auto¬ 
matic reflexes. So that naturally his fingers began occasionally 
to ‘ tangle,’ or fail to respond automatically in difficult pass¬ 
ages. He went to a doctor, and then to specialists, who told 
him there was nothing the matter with his hands. From their 
point of view they were right. He began brooding, certain 
now that there was something mysteriously wrong with his 
hands which the doctors couldn’t diagnose. 

What had been done to him by open and direct suggestion 
up to now had been merely the groundwork. 

When they thought he was ripe for it, a little before the 
concert, an anonymous letter was sent him: 

“ I can tell you what is wrong with your hands, but it is 
so frightful that I am almost afraid to tell you.” The letter 



then played on “ emanation,” “ vibrations,” so-called Rosicru- 
cian mysteries which they knew the young man had read and 
studied. It ended by telling him about the doll with its hands 
squeezed in the vice. It was cruelly and cunningly signed, as 
if coming from some fellow-esoteric afraid to divulge his 
name, “ A Sympathetic Friend.” 

On the night of the concert he had found pinned in his 
dressing-room a shorter note, in different handwriting, which 

The handle of the vice will be slowly turned to-night, 
until your hands are crushed.” 

If you think the victim of a plot like that had to be tem¬ 
peramental, credulous, and neurasthenic to begin with, or that 
such ugly influences as I describe are too far removed from the 
everyday life of normal people to be of anything but clinical 
interest, there are unpleasant ways by which it can be proved, 
and has been proved, that such influences, though often unco¬ 
ordinated, often unconscious, and happily seldom organized 
or directed, are at work and affect people in every walk of life 
and every grade of society. Take the healthiest, most hard- 
boiled, non-imaginative adult you know. Let several people, 
separately and at intervals, tell him he seems nervous and 
ought to take a rest. Let somebody say to him, “ Aren’t you 
feeling well? ” Let another say casually some day, “ Have you 
been sick? ” By the time it’s gone as far as that he will be 
feeling ‘ awful,’ having symptoms of functional or nervous 
disorders, and will be consulting the specialists. You can’t 
‘ wish ’ cancer, a broken leg, anthrax, influenza, or malaria on 
him, but you can ‘ wish ’ him into his bed, and sometimes into 
his grave, if you’re vicious and patient enough. Without ever 
having studied the so-called ‘ black art,’ you will have been 
practising it, as truly as any coven witch in Hungary, hex- 
doctor in Pennsylvania, or witch-doctor in Africa. These 
are the crude elemental principles of witchcraft at its 

And that sort of unconscious ‘ witchcraft,’ alas, instead of 
being rare, is as common as the air we breathe. It seldom pro¬ 
duces fatal illness or death, but too frequently in a thousand 
homes or groups, some of which you doubtless know, it pro- 



























3 ; 


3 ! 



) i 





duces depression, inefficiency, brooding and unhappiness. Take 
a healthy, charming, well co-ordinated child, a completely 
normal, bright, but sensitive little girl, for instance. Start tell¬ 
ing her she’s stupid. Keep telling her on every possible occa¬ 
sion that she’s stupid. Keep drilling it into her—you’d deserve 
to rot in hell for it if you did, as much as if you’d put disease 
germs in her morning oatmeal—and if you keep at it patiently 
at the end of six months or a year you’ll have a stupid and 
unhappy child. 

It’s just as much a moral crime to put ‘ poison ’ in the mind 
as it is to put it in the soup. It works more slowly, but it works. 
“ Give a dog a bad name,” and no matter how well-bred he is 
he’ll soon be feeling, and consequently acting, like a slinking 
cur. I am intimate and friendly with a family of former city 
people always kind to dogs, to children, to their friends, who 
have a farm here in the country, and who have been puzzled 
for years because they can’t get loyal, honest and trustworthy 
farm help in a countryside which has a tradition of honesty. 
The reason is simple. From the start, no matter whom they 
employ, they have always suspected that the man was going 
to let them down. They have always suspected that he would 
cheat them on the apples, eggs, or fertilizer bill, or that he 
would be “ loafing on the job.” Now, no matter how polite 
and smiling employers may be, or how careful they think they 
are in concealing their misgivings, the employee always knows 
it. No extra-sensory perception or nonsense of telepathy is 
required to explain his knowledge. He might say he feels it, 
or senses it, instead of that he knows it. He might say it was 
intuition. But it has all come in through his five senses, so 
that saying he sensed it is the simple truth. He feels what they 
feel, and since they feel like that, and since he’s no miracle of 
incorruptible integrity (are any of us?), but simply a decent, 
ordinarily honest fellow, inclined to be decent and honest in 
decent circumstances, he says to himself sooner or later, 
“ What the heck, if that’s how they feel about me anyway .. 
and starts cheating them. 

“ Since that’s how they feel, since that’s what they think of 
me anyway, why disappoint them? ” 

If their psychology had been the opposite, if they had 
trusted him (and they should never have hired him unless 



they intended to trust him), he might not have disappointed 
them in that case either. 

Carl Sandburg tells about an early sodbuster settled in 
Kansas. The sodbuster leaned at his gate. Drove up a new¬ 
comer in a covered wagon: “ What kind of folks lives around 
here? ” “ Well, stranger, what kind of folks was there in the 
country you come from? ” “ Well, they was mostly a low-down, 
lying, thieving, gossiping, backbiting lot of people.” “ Well, 
I guess, stranger, that’s about the kind of folks you’ll find 
around here.” And the dusty grey stranger had just about 
blended into the dusty grey cottonwoods in a clump on the 
horizon when another newcomer drove up: “ What kind of 
folks lives around here?” “Well, stranger, what kind of 
folks was there in the country you come from? ” “ Well, 
they was mostly a decent, hard-working, law-abiding, friendly 
lot of people.” “ Well, I guess, stranger, that’s the kind of 
folks you’ll find around here.” 

If the stranger is strong enough on the side of the angels 
he can work miracles for good. One did once, though he was 
born a carpenter’s son, native peasant in the local village, and 
turned ‘ strange ’ inside himself without the exterior aura of 
remote origin. But most of us are more facile agents for 
contagious evil than contagious good. Magic is contagious, 
particularly when unconscious and unfocused. When one 
suspicious man or family moves into an honest community, 
expecting to be cheated, the community will remain generally 
honest, and confine its cheating to the strangers who asked, 
for it. But if enough people of his sort move in the whole 
community will become corrupt, including the oldest inhabi¬ 
tants, and start cheating one another. 

Bad people are almost as rare as bad dogs. It isn’t often, 
not once in a thousand or a million mongrel births, that dog 
or man loves evil. But dogs and men are sensitive. They 
vibrate. If you feel strongly that the dog will bite you, or 
that the man will cheat you or do you in the eye, the dog or 
man is pretty likely to vibrate in harmony with your emotion- 
expectations, and do it to you—and it serves you damned well 

Rhinebeck, my village, your village, your family, is always 
the Lion of Androcles. It will almost never attack you wan- 



) tonly, unless it is terribly hungry—and in that case you can 
> forgive it. Any village, city, or family group is the magical 
i equivalent of the lion. Be friendly and trustful towards the 
L animal (your own family, the grocer, your wretched sister, 
your difficult mother, your sexful or long-lost-to-sex wife) and 
it will be friendly towards you. Beware, however, of hypo- 
I crisy. If you pretend to do it without feeling it the grocer, 
1 your mother, your sister, your wife, will outdo you in devilish 
r hypocrisy and nail your worse-stripped skin to the nearest barn 
:l door. 

My friends think I lean too far towards the side of the 
it angels. My gardener has all my keys, except the one to my 
n cash drawer, and the reason he hasn’t that is that it’s never 
•: locked. He goes to it frequently, to buy this and that for cash. 
: I don’t keep count, but my gardener, John, I’m sure, has never 

I even had the concept of gypping me. It would be as absurd 
' as gypping himself. Yet perhaps he’s no more basically incor- 
i ruptible than any of the rest of us. Remember Judith Ander- 

son in Pirandello’s As You Desire Me ? Perhaps I have been 

II applying white magic to my gardener. At any rate, it works. 

My friends, I am sure, have never dreamed that their own 
i psychological distillation of a mild elemental form of black 
;' magic has ruined their successive farm workers, made them dis- 
H loyal and dishonest, as truly as black magic ruined the Paris 
jtj pianist. There’s nothing diabolic about any of it in a super- 
i; natural sense, but ‘ black ’ is the right adjective for it. 

Chapter V 

Wooden Doll in a Cave 

I N the cases of Albrecht Tellier, cynical Belgian globe¬ 
trotting scoundrel, soldier of fortune, and big-game hunter, 
and of Jean Dupuis, cultured but esoterically inclined Parisian, 
it is by no means certain that Tellier believed at all, or that 
Dupuis believed completely, in any diabolic, superhuman, 
supernatural power behind the doll. In the case I propose 
next to relate the intended victim believed as implicitly and 
unquestioningly in the deadly supernatural power behind the 
doll as you believe in poison gas or cholera germs. When the 
intended victim believes the force attacking him is super¬ 
human the doll, for him, becomes a fatal image of certain 
doom, and he tends more easily to crack up emotionally and 
functionally. All savages and primitives believe in this super¬ 
natural element, and so do millions of otherwise civilized 
whites in Europe and in America. Rehmeyer fought to the 
death, and John Blymyer killed him by violence, because they 
both believed that the hexing of a lock of hair would have 
been just as murderous and deadly. In Africa, in the case of 
the wooden doll in a cave, my savage friends wiped out, by 
similar physical violence, and with clean consciences accord- 
ing to their standards, a witch who was slowly murdering one 
of them—with no other weapon than that wooden doll. 

I was living up in the Ivory Coast, near Dananae, and the 
young black witch and priestess Wamba came to my house 
one day to ask a favour. She had done me many, and knew 
that I could scarcely refuse. It seemed an 4 uncle ’ of hers 
was sick in the hospital at Huan, three hundred miles away, 
and she wanted to pay him a visit. His name was Benk6 Kono 
(Uncle Bird), and she hadn’t seen him since she was a little 
girl. He had sent word that he was afraid he was going to die, 
and hoped he could see her. Benkt, the Bambara word for 

uncle, is loosely used, as is its equivalent in all languages, as an 




affectionate term for any old man one is fond of. Wamba 
consequently felt it necessary to add that this old gentleman 
was blood kin, and that she felt it her duty to go. Wamba 
was a wayward, usually selfish wench, and I was surprised at 
this display of family affection towards a distant relative she 
hadn’t seen for years. She was deliberately piling it on so that 
I could scarcely refuse. She had come dressed in all her finery: 
scarlet leather hat surmounted by red, white, and yellow ostrich 
plumes; bracelets, bangles, gris-gris, anklets, tinkling bells.. .. 
And indeed I was not going to refuse—though I couldn’t help 
reflecting that unless she went home and changed her clothes 
before we started she’d be a startling apparition seated beside 
a white man in the front seat of an open Renault lorry that 
had a Government official licence! For the lorry was what 
she’d come for. It would take three weeks for her to make the 
trip to Huan with carriers in the hammock swung on poles 
in which she usually travelled, and it could be done in three 
days or less in a motor-car. Poor old Uncle Bird, she said, 
might be dead when she got there, unless I helped her. 

Why do you really want to go to Huan? ” I asked her. 

My uncle is sick. I’ve told you the truth.” 

I doubt it,” said I, “ and if you have told me the truth 
I don’t believe you’ve told me all of it, but I’ll find out whether 
the roads are passable, and if they are we’ll start to-night.” 

“ The roads are passable. The kola-nut lorries have been 
going through,” she said—and added, “ We’ll have to take 
Diisi. He can sit on the bags in the rear.” 

“ Why do we have to take Diisi? What are you planning to 
do at Huan? ” I asked. 

She replied impatiently, “ I tell you, my uncle is sick I Do 
I need to keep telling you I want to comfort him? Wouldn’t 
you want to, if you had a sick uncle? ” 

“ And I suppose you need Diisi to help comfort him? ” 

“ Fate,” said Wamba, who was a real jungle priestess, despite 
her handsome impudence, “ is always fan-shaped. Perhaps I 
shall need Diisi.” 

This Diisi, whom I’d known for a long time, was Wamba’s 
4 brain trust.’ She seldom went far afield or undertook any¬ 
thing serious without him. He was an elderly, skinny, little 
fetish-temple soothsayer, with keen eyes, a seamy smile, and 






grizzled beard. His grandfather had been a great witch-doctor, 
and he was the custodian of the ‘ sacred relic ’—his grand¬ 
father’s mummified arm, which they used as a sort of jungle 
Ouija board. It was a shrivelled human forearm with the 
clenched hand attached, dry and hard as wood—almost like 
petrified wood. I had seen it ‘ consulted ’ on more than one 
occasion. You suspend it by the middle on a single long slender 
thread from the ceiling of the temple, or, if it’s out of doors, 
from the branch of a tree, so that it dangles, balanced hori¬ 
zontally. Then you build a tiny altar of pebbles under it, on 
which you place offerings of food—a fine, ripe mango, a 
chicken liver, anything small and tasty that comes handy. 
Sometimes you lay a little bouquet of flowers against the side 
of the altar. Sometimes, if the arm is slow in answering, you 
build a little fire under it—as good Catholics among the peas* 
ants of the Roman Campagna stand the little image of St 
Joseph on his head in a basin of water, to ‘ persuade ’ him to 
answer their prayers. Then you invoke the spirit of the long- 
dead witch-doctor, and presently the arm begins to gyrate 
slowly. It does too—nearly always—and without needing to 
be jiggled or tricked. The temple ceilings are bamboo-latticed, 
thatched, thick, but not very solid or stable, and any slight 
vibration does it. Sometimes there’s a slight breeze, nearly 
always the vibration of the drums. Sometimes in complete 
silence, with no drums and apparently no breath of air, the 
“ hand of power ” revolves slowly on its axis-arm, or dips up¬ 
ward or downward, as if it wants to say or point out something. 
No spirit speaks through it, and no spirit ever has or ever will 
speak through any medium, animate or inanimate, in my 
opinion, but it’s eerie, there in its own setting, and it’s easy to 
understand how they believe a spirit moves it. 

I knew that if we were going to take Diisi along we should 
also be transporting what was left of Diisi’s grandfather. So 
that when they turned up that night, with Wamba, thank God, 
divested of her scarlet ostrich plumes and bangles, swathed 
now in a dark-blue pagne suitable for inconspicuous travel, I 
was not surprised to see in Diisi’s luggage the little mahogany 
casket bound in leopard skin in which reposed the long-dead 
sorcerer’s black hand. 



We got there in less than three days, and the hospital turned 
out to be a Catholic medical mission of the Peres Blancs. 
To the kindly monks and doctor who received us I was simply 
a white colonial who had brought a couple of natives to visit 
a sick relative. Diisi, and Wamba too, were circumspect and 
humble. The hospital had many patients, all black, and they 
weren’t sure whether a Benke Kono was among them or not. 
If the records didn’t show anything we were welcome to have 
a look at all the men patients, and would doubtless recognize 
him if he was there. Native names were sometimes difficult 
to get straight, they explained to me. But presently they found 
Benkej Kono’s name, and then remembered him perfectly, 
since he had been there for several weeks and had been an 
“ interesting case.” He had gone home, probably to die, they 
said, a few days before. He had been “ an interesting case,” the 
doctor repeated. 

“ Why had the case been interesting? ” 

“ Well, to be frank,” said the doctor, “ we are equipped 
with laboratories and technicians, and I have had a lifetime’s 
experience with native diseases . . . but we couldn’t find out 
what was the matter with the old Malinke.” He had seemed 
to be wasting away from pernicious anaemia or something of 
the sort, the doctor continued, but the blood tests, and all the 
other tests and attempted diagnoses, had failed to show any¬ 
thing whatsoever. 

I thanked them, got permission to leave the lorry for a few 

From then on it was up to Wamba. Since I had come as far 
as that to visit her sick uncle, I was willing to tag along a little 
further, and let her find him if she could. It proved to be 
simple enough. Uncle Bird’s village was distant only fifteen 
kilometres, and we got there, with porters, late that night. 
Uncle Bird was one of the village headmen, had a sizable com¬ 
pound, several houses, several wives, a flock of chickens, and 
a herd of goats. The village helped install me in the thatch- 
roofed guesthouse—nearly every forest village has one—while 
Wamba and Diisi were looked after by Uncle Bird’s wives. 
Next morning she sent for me to come over and meet Uncle 
Bird. He was a pleasant, sad, old savage who must once have 
had a powerful physique and commanding presence—elderly 


5 ° 


rather than really old, and not precisely a savage either, since 
I soon discovered he could speak good pidgin French, and 
saw hanging from pegs in the wall two suits of store-bought 
clothes. Like many native headmen in that part of Africa, he 
had worked a good part of his life for the administration, 
had been a sort of tax overseer. Now he was wasted, emaciated, 
melancholy, and depressed. He had been lying in a bamboo 
wall-bunk on a straw mat, with a pillow, but sat up to talk with 
us. It was the administration, he said, who had persuaded him 
to go to the hospital, and he had consented to go, not because 
of the medical doctors, but because the Peres Blancs were basi- 
tigui, which means dealers in spiritual and supernatural 
things. Just as the fetishist priest is basi-tigui, so likewise is 
the Roman Catholic priest, or priest of any religion. 1 Uncle 
Bird had gone to the hospital, he told me, because he’d thought 
the proximity, prayers, Masses, and protection of the basi- 
tigui might help him. 

Did he know, then, I asked, what was the matter with 

Oh, yes, he knew, and glanced at Wamba. That was why 
he had sent for Wamba. He glanced at her again, and she 
nodded her head in assent. It was all right to tell me. So he 
told me. 

He knew and told me all about why he was dying. Some¬ 
where in the forest a wooden doll had been carved in his image 
and baptized with his name. It had then been wound round 
and round with soft scarlet woollen thread which had been 
made to be ’ his own life-thread. Each day a little of the 
thread was being unwound, while the deadly basiko and 
dayama incantations were chanted. When the end of the 
scarlet thread was reached he was going to die, he said, and I, 
who have no superstition, was convinced that he would. He 
was going to die simply and solely because he knew that he 
was going to die. 2 The only thing he didn’t know was who the 
witch might be, or where the doll was hidden. 

1 Protestant missionaries, though occasionally liked and respected by the 
natives, have never been considered basi-tigui. 

2 To those who believe that concentrated hatred and destructive thought 
can send out actual emanations of evil, perceptible through channels other 
than the senses—I can only say that while they may be right, I do not be¬ 
lieve it. 


5 1 

Wamba meanwhile, first whispering with Diisi, was now 
moving restlessly around the room, then standing trembling 
like a big savage cat when it begins lashing its tail. 

“ Perhaps you are not going to die, Uncle Bird,” she said. 
“Have you not been taught that fate is always fan-shaped? 
But you should have sent for me sooner.” 

On our way back to Huan, which had a large native popu¬ 
lation and the biggest native market in the region, Wamba 
said to Diisi and me, “ With more time I could handle this in 
the old way, as such things should be handled. But there is 
little time, and I am going to handle it by a quicker handle.” 

The only whites in Huan were the missionary priests, the 
manager of a ‘ chain-store ’ trading post, and a French sergent- 
fonctionnaire in charge of a few Senegalese soldiers. Having 
already ‘ gone native ’ on this little expedition, I stayed away 
from the whites. From then on I let Wamba run the show. 

Wamba took a house for us on the edge of the town, in a 
compound fenced at the front, but whose backyard was the 
whole forest. It had mud-thatched outbuildings, including a 
small fetish house, as these compounds nearly always do, and 
in this little devil’s doghouse Diisi prepared to go to work 
on his grandfather’s arm. I helped gather pebbles for the altar, 
and contributed two or three cigarettes, which I propped 
against it. When I went back that night they were gone, and 
I didn’t inquire whether Diisi had smoked them himself or 
burned them to propitiate his ancestor. Wamba had made 
one trip to the market, and servants had returned laden with 
provisions. Then she went down into the town, and was gone 
for two days and nights. She returned, worn out and travel- 
stained, looking completely done in. I don’t think she’d slept 
at all in the interval. I gave her a shot of rum from a bottle 
I’d sent one of the servants to buy from the chain store. She 
flopped down and slept for a couple of hours. Then drum¬ 
mers came, and we went into executive session with Diisi’s 
grandfather’s arm. Before it ended we had a small, fervent 
congregation—the servants, and other faces I had never seen 
before. They joined in the prayers, and Wamba seemed 
pleased. The arm did its stuff, and when it was over Wamba 
told me she knew everything she needed to know. She knew 


5 2 

where the doll was, and the identity of the witch. I suspect 
that during the two days and nights she’d been absent, work¬ 
ing probably as detectives or rival gangsters work in the jungles 
of Chicago or New York, she’d learned, or bought, the infor¬ 

“ I am now going,” said Wamba, “ to save Uncle Bird’s life. 
You can come along if you choose, but I advise you not to. 
You are one of us, a black man with a white face, but you 
would perhaps not wish to see what you would see.” 

Diisi did not accompany us. Wamba and I made a journey, 
accompanied only by two grim-faced men who she said were 
ner cousins.” “ Torpedoes ” would have been the name for 
them in the American jungle. They were forest savages, but 
I suspected they were Senegalese. They were barefoot now, 
but I suspected they had worn shoes and uniforms. There was 
a mud-and-stone house built into the face of a cliff, many 
a long mile from Huan. And the house was the masked en¬ 
trance to a cave. We entered the house, and entered the cave. 
And there, upon an altar, candle-lighted, smeared with chicken 
blood, I saw the ugly little wooden doll from which the scarlet 
life-thread had been unwound almost to the last strand. I had 
expected to see a hag, but the witch, who would unwind no 
more because she lay quivering on the floor sieved with slugs 
fired at close range by Wamba’s ‘ cousins,’ was a young wench 
who spat in our faces as she died. Wamba had no remorse. 
Wamba was gay and happy as a girl scout who had done her 
good deed for the day. We later held a festival, a bambouche , 
to celebrate Uncle Bird’s deliverance and the beginning of 
his recovery. He began getting well immediately, and he got 
well, as I believe, because he now knew that he was going; to 
get well. 

Chapter VI 

Sawdust Doll in Brambles 

I N contrast to Uncle Bird’s whole-souled and whole-minded 
fear-belief in the infernal, supernatural power of the witch’s 
incantations and the doll, I next present the case of an intended 
victim who was a disbeliever and had no conscious fear at all. 

He was a young mechanic from Marseilles, who understood 
engines and anything he could take hold of with his hands 
or a wrench, but to whom the complications of modern psycho¬ 
logy, much less the idea that a witch could hurt him with a 
doll or by suggestion, would have been de la fumisterie —bunk. 

His name was Louis Bausset, and I got acquainted with him 
first in a garage at St Remy, where I was living upstairs above a 
workman’s restaurant. He had a girl in a neighbouring hill 
village, and I had a girl in the town. The four of us used to 
meet occasionally in the restaurant and share the same table. 
They confided one evening that they wanted to get married 
and were having a bad time with Marie’s doddering old grand¬ 
mother, who had refused to let them. Marie was an orphan, 
under age, the grandmother was her guardian, and the French 
laws are tough in such circumstances. Louis wondered if I’d 
go up with him some day and see if I could help. 1 

There’s a turn on one of the main roads well out of St R6my 
where you can look up and see the hill village perched on a 
steep cliff above the gorge through which the road runs. A 
winding goat path leads up from that point, but it’s a hard 
climb, and people seldom use it to go up, though mountain 
peasants often come down that way, since it cuts off several 
miles. Louis sometimes used it, even in going up, but on the 
Sunday morning set for our visit to Marie and her grand¬ 
mother we had borrowed an old Citroen and rode the long way. 
Marie was waiting for us at a cafe, beyond the church. 

1 Years ago I twisted some of these events into a short story. I never 
expected to touch it again, but in this context it deserves to be told as it 
actually happened. 




She took us to an old stone mas , a dilapidated but massively 
built farm cottage, which had been there for centuries. In 
introducing me, with peasant formality, she called her grand¬ 
mother Madame Tirelouet,” but “ Mere Tirelou ” was the 
more familiar name by which she and Louis afterwards 
addressed her. Mere Tirelou was withered, skinny in the arms 
and legs, yet unhealthily plump in face and body, like a 
withered, half-rotting sour apple. She was civil at first, in 
the presence of a stranger, and fetched wine with a plate of 
seedcakes. But when the subject of marriage came up, and I 
began to speak well of Louis, she told me in a croaking voice 
to keep my nose out of other people’s business. I tried to 
point out that it was very much the business of Marie and 
Louis, the most important thing on earth for them, and that 
I was Louis s close friend and sincerely believed he would 
make Marie a good husband. I tried to tell her about his work 
and prospects. Presently she lost her temper and was scream¬ 
ing at us, “ Never ... while I live! ” 

There was no use arguing with an eccentric old woman in a 
screaming temper, and as we went away she fired a parting 
shot at Louis: 

“ And I may live longer than you do, unless you let Marie 
alone! ” 

“ 1 doubt if you’ll ever bring her round,” I said to Marie, 
as we sat in the sunshine on the terrace of the cafe overlook- 
ing gorge and valley. The view was magnificent. I’d never 
been up there before, and was thinking it would be a lovely 
place to spend a week in. I was thinking that even though I 
hadn t been much of a help as a matchmaker, I’d found a spot 
worth visiting for a while when I left St Remy. 

“ After all, the old lady can’t live for ever, and, for that 
matter, you’ll be of age in a year or so,” I said to Marie. 

“ Why don’t you wait a little? ” 

We don’t want to,” said Louis; “ we want to get married.” 

I said, I d like to come up here and spend a couple of weeks 

anyway, and if I do I d be glad to try to get better acquainted 
with her, and try-” 

Louis said, I don t think it would be of any use, but you 
might try if you are coming up anyway.” 

















) | 



That was the situation, and that was how it still was when 
I went up in August and took a room at the inn. The inn 
owned the cafe and terrace on the edge of the cliff, and was 
built into the parapet which hung over the gorge. There was 
a stone wagon shed which had been converted into a garage, 
and my room was above it. The motor road came up through 
the back of the village, and the footpath coming up from the 
gorge bent round the wagon shed’s courtyard walls and joined 
the road almost beneath my window. Louis had arrived for 
a few days’ vacation, had another room in the inn, and was 
seeing Marie in spite of the old woman. 

In casual conversations with new acquaintances in the vil¬ 
lage I learned that M£re Tirelou was supposed by some of 
them to be a little crazy, and said by others to be a witch. I 
pricked up my ears a little; but since every village in Southern 
France has an old woman who sells harmless herbs, tells for¬ 
tunes in tea leaves or with the tarot cards, and cures rheu¬ 
matism, or tries to, with amulets and charms, my curiosity 
was only mildly aroused. And as for any suspicion that her 
sort of witchcraft might be sinister, or might have any remote 
connexion with her refusal to let her granddaughter marry 
Louis, it didn’t enter my head. 

Then, one hot mid-afternoon when I lay reading in my 
room beside an open window, the series of events began which 
led finally, by paths of ancient evil, to the doll in the brambles. 
I had often heard Mere Tirelou quarrelling with Louis, but all 
at once, down in an angle of the courtyard wall beneath my 
window, I heard their voices now, and there was a new note 
in the old woman’s. I couldn’t catch the words at first, but 
she was muttering, and he was trying to quiet her, half- 
amiable, half-impatient and derisive. Her tones, meanwhile, 
were so curious that I got the unpleasant impression she might 
be on the verge of convulsions, or a ‘ seizure,’ as the French call 
it, and I got up to see what was happening. 

They were standing down there in the sunshine, he tall, 
ruddy, tousle-haired, bareheaded, in knickers and sports shirt; 
she grey, bent, and batlike in her Arlesienne coiffe and shawl, 
with arms outstretched, crouching, and barring his path. She 
was now intoning a weird, singsong doggerel, at the same 
time weaving in the air with her clawlike hands: 

5 6 


“ Go down, go down, my pretty youth, 

But you will not come up. 

Tangled mind will twist and turn, 

And tangled foot will follow. 

You will go down, my pretty one, 

But you will not come up again. 

So tangle, tangle, twist, and turn, 

For tangling webs are woven.” 

She kept singing it, and was on her knees, clawing at his 
feet and ankles, scratching and pulling at his shoelaces. He 
was bending as if to lift her up, when she hopped aside and 

She was no longer barring Louis’s path, but standing aside, 
inviting him to pass, so that her back was partly turned to 
me, while Louis stood so that I could see his face and the 
expressions which flitted over it—first an interested, incredu¬ 
lous, surprised attention as if he couldn’t believe his own ears, 
then a good-humoured but derisive and defiant grin as the old 
woman began to mumble her doggerel. 

‘ No, no, Mere Tirelou,” he said. “ You can’t scare me with 
stuff like that. Better get an honest-to-goodness broomstick 
when you try to drive me away. Save your cobwebs and incan¬ 
tations for the shepherds.” 

Then Louis with a defiant, humorous au revoir was off down 
the goat path whistling, while the old woman screamed after 

“ Down, down, down you go, but not up, my pretty boy; 
not up, not up, not up! ” 

This was years ago, but I already knew, or thought I knew, 
a good deal about witchcraft. I had known it to produce 
results, but only in cases when the victim was superstitious 
and consequently amenable to fear. I knew nothing then about 
the role the subconscious might play. I felt sure that such 
complete, hardheaded disbelief constituted a * counter-magic ’ 
stronger than any amount of exorcism and holy water, and 
felt sure that Louis wasn’t in the slightest danger. 

I have since learned that it’s never quite so simple as that. 
But, holding these wrong convictions then, I finished my read¬ 
ing, dined early, strolled to the top of a crest to watch the 
sunset, and went early to bed. 



Usually after ten o’clock the whole village, including the 
|.( interior of the inn, was sound asleep and silent. It was the 
i: noise of footsteps clattering along the stone floor of the corri- 
i dor which awoke me late in the night. I heard lowered voices 
in the road, saw lights flashing. 

I struck a light, dressed, and went downstairs. The inn- 
i keeper, Martin Plomb, was talking to a group of neighbours, 
j. His wife was standing in the doorway, wrapped in a quilted 
)j dressing-gown. 

“ We’re worried about Louis Bausset,” she said. “ He went 
down the goat path this afternoon, and said he was coming 
back the same way. It’s all right in the daylight, even for a 
n stranger, but it’s not safe at night unless you know every inch 
of it. We thought nothing of it that he didn’t come back for 
: dinner, but it’s past midnight, and we’re afraid he may have 
j had an accident.” 

Already the men, in groups of twos and threes, with farm 
[ i| lanterns, a few with electric flashlights, were starting down 
; i the path. It had a lot of “ false turnings,” they said, which 
: i the goats had made, foraging off in the brambles . .. and one 
; i turn which led across into another gorge. 

Martin Plomb was instructing them to go this way or that 
i! and to keep in touch with one another by shouting. I went 
' along with him. It was just before dawn, after hours of fruit¬ 
less search, that we heard a different shouting from the right. 

: I couldn’t distinguish the words, but Martin said, “They’ve 
, j found him.” We worked our way across and climbed towards 
; the main road, along which we now could see lights flashing. 

They were carrying Louis on an improvised litter made 
ji with two saplings and pine branches interwoven. He was con¬ 
scious; his eyes were open; but he seemed to be in a stupor 
i !and had been unable, they said, to explain what had happened 
' to him. No bones were broken, nor had he apparently suffered 
; :any serious physical injury, but his face was cut and scratched, 
i his clothes were badly torn, particularly the knees of his 
^knickerbockers, which were ripped and abraded as if he had 
-been dragging himself along on his hands and knees. His 
' Stockings and shoelaces were tom to tatters. 

They all agreed on what had probably happened. He had 
ilbeen climbing bareheaded among the rocks in the heat of the 



late afternoon, had suffered an insolation, or sort of sunstroke, 
they said. They’d found him a mile off the path, in a sloping 
tangle of thornbush and brambles. He should be all right 
in a day or two, Martin said. They were sending down to 
St Remy for the doctor. 

It was dawn when we got to bed, and when I awoke towards 
noon the doctor had already come and gone. 

He had a bad stroke, M^artin told me. “ His head is clear 
—but there’s still something the matter that the doctor could 
not understand. When he tried to get up from the bed he 
couldn’t walk. His legs aren’t broken or anything. It’s queer. 
He seemed to twist and stumble over his own feet.” 

Sharply, as he spoke, the belated certainty came to me that 
here was an end to coincidence; that I had been wrong; that 
something evil had been happening here under my eyes. 

Martin,” I said, “ something happened yesterday that you 
don t know about. I’d like to see Louis and talk with him. 
You say his mind is clear? ” 

“ But assuredly,” said Martin, puzzled. “ He will want to 
see you.” 

Louis was in bed, his face and hands zigzagged with 

I said, Louis, M^artin tells me there’s something wrong 
with your legs. I think perhaps I can tell you what-” 

Why, have you studied medicine? ” he interrupted eagerly. 

If we d known that! The one who came up from St Remy 
didn’ t seem to be much good.” 

No, I m no doctor. But I m not sure this is a doctor’s job. 
You know where my room is. I was at the window yesterday 
and heard and saw everything that happened between you and 

Mere Tirelou. Haven t you thought that there may be some 
connexion? ” 

He stared at me in surprise, and also with a sort of angry 

Tiens! he said. “You, an educated American, you be¬ 
lieve in that crazy foolishness! Why, I came from these moun¬ 
tains, I was born here, and I know that stuff is silly nonsense. 

I thought about it, of course, that tanglefoot business, but it 
doesn’t make any sense. How could it? ” 

Maybe it doesn t, I said, “ but, just the same, will you 



please tell me as well as you can exactly what happened to 
you yesterday afternoon and last night? ” 

“ I went down,” he said, “ then walked to the crossroads 
: and hitch-hiked into St Remy on a lorry, which brought me 
[ back and dropped me there at the same carrefour an hour 
i later. I started back up the path, and caught my foot in a 
[ vine or something and fell down, and when I got up I saw I 
must have wandered off the path without knowing it, for 
r there wasn’t any path in sight, and I went looking for it. You 
j know how the going is, and how thick it is with thombush. 

I stumbled a couple of times—anybody but a goat would 
i stumble in that tangle—finally fell down a couple of times 
more . . . and there I was, lost on that damned mountainside. 

I I had the ‘ stroke,’ or whatever it was, afterwards. I began to 
: be dizzy, couldn’t stand up, everything looked queer to me. 
t I was frightened, I suppose, and I kept trying to walk, and 
: kept falling down, and it got dark. . . . And that’s all I remem- 
: her. If it’s left me like this I’d rather it had killed me. I’d 
I rather be dead than crippled.” 

Louis lapsed into sombre silence. I had heard enough. 

: People have lain in bed for years because they believed they 
; couldn’t rise and walk. Medical records show plenty of cases in 
:! which such patients have been cured simply by being jolted out 
i of the neurosis, and it was my job now to jolt Louis if I could. 

Neither the old woman nor her granddaughter had been 
: near the hotel that morning. I climbed the winding cobbled 
! street and tapped at their door. Presently Marie reluctantly 
| opened. I said, “ I’ve come to see Mere Tirelou.” 

“ She is not here,” said Marie. The girl was in distress, and 
I I felt she knew or suspected why I had come. 

“ In that case,” I said, “ we must talk. Shall it be like this, 
or would you prefer to have me come in? ” 

She motioned me inside. 

I said, “ Marie, I beg you to be honest. You know what 
people say about your grandmother—and there are some who 
; say it also about you. I hope that part isn’t true. But your 
, grandmother has done something I’m determined to have 
li undone. I’m so certain that, if necessary, I am going to see the 
5 priest, and have him get the police up from St R6my. I think 
f you know exactly what I am talking about. It’s Louis—and 



I can’t see how you, pretending to love him and wanting to 
marry him-” 

“ No, no, no! ” the girl cried pitifully, interrupting. “ I tried 
to stop it! I warned him! I begged him yesterday not to see 
me any more. I told him that something dreadful would hap¬ 
pen, but he laughed at me. He doesn’t believe in such things^ 
I have helped my grandmother in other things—she has forced 
me to help her—but never in anything so wicked as this—and 
against Louis! ” 

“ Well, by God,” I said, “ no matter what your grand¬ 
mother has made you help in, it’s Louis and me you’re going 
to help now I ” 

“ afraid,” she said, “—afraid of my grandmother. Oh, if 

you knew! I don’t dare go down there—and, besides, the door 
is locked—and it may not be down there.” 

I insisted. We broke the lock. The girl went first, and I 
followed close, lighting our way with the lamp held at her 
shoulder. The stone stairway curved sharply downward, as in 
all such farmhouses, then emerged into what must once have 
been the wine cellar. It now housed various unpleasant objects 
on which the shadows flickered as I set the lamp on a barrel, 
and began to look about me. I had heard that witches, prac¬ 
tising in the medieval tradition, still existed in certain parts 

of Europe, yet I was surprised to see the definite existence so 
literally surviving. 

Against the opposite wall was an altar surmounted by a 
pair of horns. Beneath them “I.N.R.I.,” with the letters dis¬ 
torted into obscene symbols—and there on the floor, cun¬ 
ningly contrived with infinite pains, covering a considerable 
space, was the thing which we had come to find and which, 
for all my efforts to rationalize it, sent a shiver through me. 
Spread there on the earthen floor, like a wild landscape in 
miniature, was a tangled labyrinth of thorns and brambles. 
Tangled in its centre like a butterfly caught on a flypaper was 
a doll, a common doll with china head on a stuffed sawdust 
body, a doll such as might be bought for three francs in any 
toyshop—but whatever baby dress it may have worn had been 
removed and a costume suggesting a man’s knickerbockers 
and sports shirt had been substituted. The eyes of this mani¬ 
kin were bandaged with a narrow strip of black cloth. Its 



feet and legs were tangled, fastened, pierced, and enmeshed in 
the criss-cross maze of thorns and brambles. It slumped, sag¬ 
ging there at an ugly angle, neither upright nor fallen, grotes¬ 
quely sinister, like the body of a soldier caught in barbed wire. 
All this may seem silly, childish, when set down in words. But 
it was not childish; it was vicious, wicked. 

I disentangled the manikin gently, examined it to see 
whether its sawdust body had been pierced with pins or 
needle. But there were none. The old woman had apparently 
stopped short of intended murder. 

Marie had covered her face and was sobbing her heart out. 
I picked up the lamp, began again to look around me, and 
went through a vaulted passage leading to another part of the 
cellar. Suspended by heavy chains from the ceiling was a life- 
sized contrivance of wood, with blackened leather straps—as 
perverse a device as twisted human ingenuity ever invented. I 
knew its name and use from old engravings in books dealing 
with the obscure sadistic-masochistic element in medieval 
sorcery. It was a witch’s cradle. And there was something 
about the straps that made me wonder. . . . 

Marie saw me staring at it, and shuddered. 

“ Marie,” I said, “ is it possible .. . ? ” 

“ Yes,” she answered, hanging her head. “ Since you have 
been down here, there is nothing more to conceal. But I have 
hated it, and it has always been on my part unwillingly.” 

“ Why on earth haven’t you denounced her to the autho¬ 
rities? A plain charge of cruelty would have been enough. 
Why haven’t you left here? ” 

“ Monsieur,” she said, “ I have been afraid of what I knew. 
And, besides, she is my grandmother.” 

I was alone with Louis in his bedroom. I had brought the 
manikin with me, wrapped in a bit of newspaper. I showed it 
to him and told him what I had discovered. He was at first 
sceptical, incredulous, but when I made him see that the mani¬ 
kin had been crudely dressed to represent himself, and it be¬ 
came clear to him that Mere Tirelou had deliberately sought 
to do him a wicked injury, he grew angry, raised himself 
from his pillows, and exclaimed: 

6 2 


“ the old woman! She really meant to harm me I ” 

I took a chance. I stood up and threw the doll against the 
wall as hard as I could. Its china head crashed to pieces. 

41 Did that hurt you? ” I demanded. 

“ Hurt me? What are you talking about? Are vou as crazv 
as the old woman? ” 

“ The doll,” I said, “ is damned nonsense. Of course smash¬ 
ing it didn’t hurt you I Now forget all about it—and get the 

hell up out of that bed! Believe you can walk, and you will 
walk.” J 

He stared at me helplessly, sank back, and said, " I don’t 
believe it. I had a stroke. I don’t believe any of it.” 

I had failed. He lay there, victim of his own unconscious 
imagination, yet his conscious mind lacked paradoxically the 
imagination needed to pull him out of it. 

I said, " Louis, you still love Marie, don’t you? Well, Mere 
Tirelou has been doing worse things to Marie than she tried 
to do to you. And I told him brutally, almost viciously, of 
the cradle that hung there in the cellar, and of its use. 

The effect was as violent as if I had hit him in the face. 
“ Ah! Ah! Tonnerre de dieu! La coquine! La vilaine 
coquine! he shouted, leaping up from his bed like a crazy 

man. Where are my clothes? ’ he yelled, rushing round the 

He d forgotten all about his ‘ stroke ’—and that was that. 

Louis Bausset, twenty-six-year-old garage mechanic, was as 
matter-of-fact and unimaginative an adult as I’ve ever known. 
He was not a neurasthenic type. He was devoid of credulity 
and superstition. I discovered, however, as we talked and 
wondered after it was all over, that Louis Bausset at five years 
of age had believed in all the ghosts, hobgoblins, and malig¬ 
nant witches which infest the fairy-tales and folklore of that 
region, as they do in the Black Forest of Germany. He had 
long ago rejected it rationally, but it had apparently left some¬ 
thing emotionally deep down, asleep, as it were, in his con¬ 
sciousness. Psychiatry has a simple name for the not uncom¬ 
mon thing that had happened to him. His ‘stroke ’ and sub¬ 
sequent inability to walk had been the result of a compulsion 
neurosis. 1 

" Chapter VII 

1 Doll de Luxe in London 

I FIRST came indirectly into this tangle when I was invited 
one night to a dinner at the palatial villa of Lady Alice 
d Crystal Johns, near Juan-les-Pins, during one of my periods of 
sj temporary prosperity at Bandol, where Dr Thomas Mann, 
little Dr Lion Feuchtwanger, other famous German exiles, and 
| Aldous Huxley were my nearest neighbours, and where D. H. 
J Lawrence had his last illness. 

Marjorie and I were driven over by the Princess Violette 
i Murat, then at Toulon, and among the guests at dinner were 
J Jean Cocteau, the Comtesse de Noailles, and Pirandello, whose 
j As You Desire Me had recently been translated into French. 
| Neither Marjorie nor I belonged properly in the group, but 
j some of my books had also been recently translated. I had 
« bought the old ruined Chateau d’Evenos, which amused these 
v; brilliant, wealthy neighbours, and they were being kind to us. 
ji We were feasted that night superbly on a succession of mar- 
Ij vellous dishes, with priceless wines—while Alice Johns sat at 
I the head of the table eating plain, unseasoned gruel from a 
i wooden bowl, with a wooden spoon. 

She was beautiful—she was always beautiful—but she 
if seemed pitifully thin, I thought, and pale beneath her make- 
j up. “ I’m on a diet,” she had said flatly, as if to avoid com- 
i ment or need of further explanation. I didn’t know that the 
j! gruel contained no salt until she later confided her troubles 
>; to me privately. It was no secret that I studied black magic, 
and was supposed to practise it. Alice and I had known each 
other for several years. She had been gracious to me in Lon- 
1 don, and it was to ask my help now that she’d invited us to 
j dinner. Later in the evening, on a corner of the terrace look- 
i ing out over the Mediterranean, she began cautiously ; 

“ Do you really believe that spells can be cast on people? 
I sometimes wonder, because none of the doctors can find 
.1 anything the matter with me.” 



“ You’ve been doing more than wondering,” I said. “ You’re 
afraid of something specific, or you wouldn’t be eating out of 
a wooden bowl with a wooden spoon. I’m going to ask you 
something. Was there any salt in that gruel you were eating? ” 
“ No,” she said, “ it was made without salt.” 1 
“ You’re as superstitious as a savage,” I said, “ and a fine lot 
of superstitions you’ve collected I Salt turns into poison when 
you’ve been bewitched 1 You talk like a zombi. Eating from 
a silver spoon might kill you! You’re frightened out of your 
wits by something.” 

“ I’m not really superstitious,” she said. “ I guess the bowl 
and spoon must just be a sort of childish game I’m playing.” 

“ Playing against what? ” I asked, and she replied: 

“ There is something, but it’s so idiotic and fantastic—so 
childish and at the same time so crazy—that I hesitate to tell 
you. Do you know a girl in London named Annabel Swain? ” 

“ Yes,” I said. “ I’ve never seen her on the stage, but I met 
her at the Eiffel Tower Hotel, and have seen her at other 

“ Well,” continued Alice, “ there’s a tale going around Lon¬ 
don that she’s got an expensive doll—you know how they 
make dolls now, like window dummies to represent real people 
—and that it’s me, and that she’s had it dressed in a miniature 
replica of one of my Chanel gowns—the green one with gold 
—and that she calls it Alice . . . and amuses herself at night 
by sticking pins and needles in its stomach! ” 

“ Such things don’t generally get about,” I said. “ Has any¬ 
body actually seen it? How did the story start? ” 

“ In that crowd,” said Alice, “ everybody knows everything. 
They know that So-and-so smokes opium, that General Tel 
wears high-heeled shoes and corsets, that Miss Biggs is a 
mummy-worshipper, and that Arthur has a Negro prize¬ 
fighter for a sweetheart. Everybody always knows everything. 
And if Annabel gets her nasty little thrill from sticking pins in 
a doll—well, it’s silly and loathsome, but it isn’t exactly any¬ 
thing you could have her arrested for.” 

' No,” I said. “ But how do you know the story’s true? ” 

“ She was full of champagne one night, wobbly, and when 
her wobbly friends saw her home she insisted on their coming 

1 See Appendix, pp. 245-246. 


6 5 

up to the apartment and watching her do it. They say she 
got quite a nasty little thrill out of sticking pins in, and asking 
‘ Alice ’ if ‘ that one hurt.’ They thought it made a funny 
dirty story, and whispered it, of course, all over London.” 

“ She hates you a lot, doesn’t she? ” I asked. 

“Yes, she has hated me for years. She’s a strange girl, vicious 
as only women of her sort can be, but I suppose I’d better 
admit that she has her own special reasons for hating me.” 

That part, I thought, was none of my business. The word 
“ vicious ” had caused my memory to click back to another 
story about Annabel Swain which I’d heard, and forgotten. 
It was one of those things like the gossip that Lord So-and-so 
paid little girls to torture rabbits. Only worse. It is not re¬ 
peatable in print. 

I said, “ Lady Alice, you’ve been talking sensibly, almost 
ironically, about that wretched, silly doll. Why did you ever 
let it frighten you? ” 

“ But I didn’t! ” she exclaimed. “ I thought it was a nasty, 
stupid, silly thing, and almost felt sorry for her. I knew you’d 
think it was silly when I told you about it. I know the doll is 
nothing but a coincidence. What has troubled me is my own 
tummy. I'm sure you don’t want me to bore you with all the 
symptoms, but whatever it is is not simple. I’m going to the 
best doctors and specialists, but they don’t seem able to do 
anything, and it’s pulling me down. My friends say tactlessly, 
‘ You’re not looking well, dear,’ or ‘ You ought to take a cruise,’ 
or ‘ a long rest,’ or mention casually that they know a wonder¬ 
ful doctor, and I’m not very happy about it.” 

I said, “ Dear lady, you are lying to me and to yourself. 
You say you are not superstitious—yet the business of the salt, 
the wooden bowl and spoon, the fact that you have picked me 
to confide in, all prove that your pretended sense is only on 
the surface. You believed all sorts of things in Grimm’s fairy¬ 
tales when you were a little girl in the nursery, didn’t you? ” 

“ Yes,” she said, “ and, oh, I’m ashamed of it, but I’m afraid 
you’re right. I’m afraid I’m still that little frightened girl in 
the nursery, in the dark. I asked you to come to-night because 
—because I am horribly afraid.” 

“ You’re beautiful when you’re scared,” I said irrelevantly. 
“ Why don’t you go to London, and let me come along? We’ll 




find out all about that doll. We’ll smash it, and smash your 
precious Annabel Swain too, if we have to. Let’s go to the mat 
on it and end this horrid nonsense.” 

Alice Johns was something of a power in her international 
world. She knew a lot of the biggest people in London by their 
intimate, friendly nicknames, which is an entirely different 
thing from knowing them by their titles. Yet it had never 
occurred to her, apparently, to go at this business in the direct 
way I had suggested. I suppose it must have been because 
her fears, emotions, and superstitions were in one separate 
compartment of her mind, while the rational part of her mind 
still rejected the possibility that a doll could be taken seriously. 
But now that she faced her fears there was no stopping her. 
We flew to London, and I was the one who was a little scared 
by the highhanded way she plunged into the job. The first 
thing she did was to ’phone a Cabinet Minister—at his resi¬ 
dence. Then she wanted me to go along with her, and help 
her tell him all about it. She was spoiled, as all beautiful rich 
women are. Apparently her idea now was to mobilize the 
Criminal Investigation Department and all the bobbies of 
the British Empire against the woman who was “ trying 
to murder her.” Well, perhaps the woman was trying to 
murder her, but there’s no statutory law against sticking 
pins in dolls. 

I said, “ Your friend will think you’re crazy. You might as 
well call up the First Lord of the Admiralty and ask him to 
call out the Fleet. We’re going to hire some private investiga¬ 
tors quietly to find out what we can about mat doll, and I’m 
going to do a little investigating on the side myself, from a 
different angle.” 

I persuaded her, and we employed a firm with a former 
Scotland Yard inspector at the head of it. I told them we 
wanted to find out if, and when, and how, and for whom, a 
portrait doll of Lady Johns had been made within the last 
few months in London, an expensive doll de luxe, with Lady 
Johns’ features and garbed in the miniature replica of a 
Chanel gown which she showed them. We didn’t tell them 
why we wanted this information, and they didn’t ask. The 
assumption was that some patent or copyright had been vio- 



lated. There are ‘ rackets ’ connected with dressmaking, as 
with all big international business. 

They asked a few questions. They asked if Lady Alice had 
ever had a plaster portrait cast made of her head. It was a 
fad some years ago; you probably remember it—quills in the 
nostrils for breathing, hair covered with an oiled-silk cap, face 
smeared with oil, and the plaster-of-Paris mould packed over 
it. She never had—but there’d been several heads made by 
sculptors, she said, including amateur friends, and several of 
them were near London, one in the Renfred studios, she be¬ 
lieved, and others owned privately. 

Could they have a list? Addresses? Yes, if she could find 

Next evening a report came by messenger from the detec¬ 
tive agency to say that they were making progress. One of 
their women detectives had visited four studios, and in the 
fourth, whose owner had made a smiling terra cotta portrait 
bust some years before, the detective had picked up the trail. A 
craftsman had come to the caretaker, at a time in February 
when the artist was on the Continent, and had presented a 
typewritten letter on Lady Johns’ own stationery, apparently 
signed by her, instructing that a plaster cast be made. The 
caretaker had of course permitted it . . . had no record or 
memory of the man’s name . . . had supposed he came from 
Lady Johns. 

Alice had written no such letter, and we were evidently 
getting somewhere. She was still a sick woman, dieting, suf¬ 
fering frequent nausea and occasional “ sharp pains.” What 
she believed or did not believe about those “ stabbing pains ” 
as she called them, balancing her common sense against her 
confessed superstitious fear, is a question I am sure she could 
not have answered. 

During the next week or so our private detectives were trac¬ 
ing and eventually finding the Italian puppet-maker in Soho 
who had reduced the portrait replica to doll size and manu¬ 
factured the actual doll. I was at work on the other angle of 
the case. I was determined to find out, if I could, whether this 
pincushion doll de luxe had merely been a perverse, vicious 
whim of Annabel Swain’s, or whether there was something 
fouler behind it. I had a lot of acquaintances in the so-called 



‘ occult ’ underworld of London and its suburbs, which houses 
more strange cults, secret societies, devil’s altars, professional 
‘ sorcerers,’ and charlatans than any other metropolitan area on 
earth. And I hoped to turn up the other angle in that milieu. 
London cults include goat worship, cults of cruelty, tree cults, 
cults of the horrible, Rosicrucians, thugs, ghost circles, Black 
Brothers and Grey Sisters, suicide societies, and mummy- 
worshippers. 1 

These cults include also the Satanists, who claim direct tradi¬ 
tional descent from the black magic practitioners, sorcerers, 
and witches’ covens which flourished in the Middle Ages. 
They still practise witchcraft, and celebrate the Black Mass. 
They also stage occasional theatrical travesties of it which 
cover its inner meaning and merely exploit the obscene for 
money. The Black Mass itself, when celebrated solely as a 
ritual, is not nearly as spectacular as certain lurid accounts of 
its exploited variations have led readers of witchcraft books 
to believe. I had seen it celebrated several times, twice in 
London, in Paris, in Lyons, and once within less than a mile 
of the Washington Arch, in New York. It has varied little in 
centuries, and is rather a bore unless one gets a kick out of 
blasphemy and the defiling of sacred objects. It has attracted, 
and been exploited commercially in secret, with a lot of porno¬ 
graphic nonsense added, many a charlatan who is no more of 
a true Satanist than Bolber or the present-day witchcraft poison 
murderers in Philadelphia. It was not these fakers in whom 
I was interested, but certain real ones whom I knew, and who 
might be in London. These, in their crack-brained, twisted 
way, believe in their demonology and in its infernal sanction 
in the same way orthodox Christians believe in their theology 
and its heavenly sanction. Their Satan is the fallen Archangel 
Lucifer, who has always had more power on earth than God, 
and their ultimate object is to restore “ Him ”—they spell it 
with a capital letter, as one might expect—to the throne of the 

Some of them are wealthy, many are otherwise ‘ respectable ’ 
and otherwise quite sane. One I know has a degree from Ox¬ 
ford, and nearly all of them are profound students of the 
Bible, Church history, the Talmud and Cabbala. Just as witch- 

1 See Appendix, pp. 247-251. 



craft is the evil, reverse image of mental therapy, so Satanism 
is the reverse image of religion. How literally it is a reverse 
image is a thing which should be briefly told, even at the risk 
of further interrupting for a moment the thread of my nar¬ 

Four essentials are, and always have been, necessary to the 
ritual: an apostate priest, a consecrated host, a prostitute, a 
virgin. The false priest is in these days generally a priest who 
has been unfrocked, kicked out of the Church. The conse¬ 
crated wafer is obtained by a false communicant who goes to 
a true Mass with his tongue and the mucous membranes of 
his mouth coated with alum. 

Before an altar surmounted by a crucifix turned upside 
down, and on which the girl who is a virgin lies naked, the 
black-robed priest intones parts of the true Mass backward , in 
dog Latin, substituting the word ‘ evil ’ for ‘ good ’ and the 
word ‘ Satan ’ for * God/ The prostitute, robed in scarlet, per¬ 
forms the duties of acolyte; the goblet of wine is placed be¬ 
tween the breasts of the recumbent virgin and a part of the 
wine is spilled over her body. At the supreme moment, the 
sacrament, the consecrated wafer, which they believe has 
become by its previous true consecration the body of Christ, is 
debased instead of elevated, and subsequently defiled. Efforts 
were made to * convert ’ me at one time, which explains how I 
know so much about it. I have spent entire nights talking and 
drinking Scotch with leaders of the Satanists, have had them 
in my studios, and have been in theirs; have even helped draw 
the pentagrams with chalk upon the floor when they were 
trying, as the spiritualists try with ghosts of the departed, to 
evoke the materialized presence of Beelzebub or Ashtoreth. 
The only materialization we ever got—and which scared the 
wits out of all of us including the Satanist leader—was a 
stray cat which had wandered in from a Chelsea fire escape 
one night in summer. 

It was this Satanist leader I thought of now. If he was 
still in London he might have the information I sought. I 
had little difficulty in locating him, and he agreed to meet 
me that evening at a well-known tavern. At a table in the 
long alcove beyond the bar I put it to him flatly. I said, 



“ You know from experience of over ten years that I’m not 
a spy, informer, or reformer, and that I have no connexion 
with the police. Nor am I engaged in any investigation into 
present activities. I want some private information about one 
single private individual. I want to know whether Annabel 
Swain is, or has ever been, a Satanist, and, if so, how deeply she 
got into it.” 

“ Is there any police-court angle in this? ” he asked. “ Black¬ 
mail or anything of that sort? ” 

“ No,” I said, “ and there won’t be.” 

I had done him some favours in the old days when I was 
a student of diabolism, and he said: 

“ All righf if it’s my turn to do you a favour, you’ll keep 
my name out of it. She’s in it. I’ve seen her in the procession 
of communicants, both here and in Paris.” 

“ Has she ever been a student of the other stuff? ” 

“ ° h! ” said he, with a grunt. “ So that’s what she’s been up 
to! If she’s a real adept I’d be surprised to learn it. But I 
could find out for you—or perhaps you know enough already.” 

“ Yes,” I said, “ I think I know enough.” 

And by that time we did. Worshipping the devil and stick¬ 
ing pins in dolls are, indeed, not statutory crimes, but now that 
we knew where we stood Alice Johns had the necessary in¬ 
fluence, and the necessary ruthlessness, to put the screws to 
her enemy. She was literal-minded. 

You tell me that if I hadn’t been superstitious I might 
never have been ill, she said, but, superstition or no super¬ 
stition, I’m going to have that doll and Annabel Swain’s 
hide! ” 

She knew an excellent angle from which Annabel Swain 
could be attacked, and though it came close to being the equi¬ 
valent of ‘ framing her,’ we didn’t have the slightest qualms 
of conscience in doing it. The actress was known to be what’s 
called in that decadent set, as it’s called too now, I believe, in 
Hollywood, a druggist.’ She wasn’t a dope victim or dope 
maniac, and might never be, but she was on and off cocaine 
and heroin, and consequently had to buy it from pedlars who 
could be located if necessary and made or bribed to talk. She 
must have small supplies of it from time to time in her apart- 
ment, and if there didn’t happen to be any there just now it 


7 1 

could be ‘ planted/ Not a very savoury business, but the whole 
thing was unsavoury. And when a couple of beautiful women 
in that ruthless group are deadly enemies, out for each other’s 
scalps, it’s been my lifelong observation that they willingly 
use weapons which would make an honest gunman blush. 

Three nights following, about one o’clock in the morning, 
a licensed detective, accompanied by two gentlemen with 
badges who said they were members of the narcotic squad, 
returned from Annabel Swain’s apartment with the doll, and 
with a brief scrawled note on violet paper, which read as 


It was only a bad joke, of course, and I’m terribly sorry you 

took it seriously. But you never had a sense of humour! Am 

sailing for New York to-morrow, and if I never see you again 

I hope you choke. 

With all my love, 


“ It was a very bad joke indeed,” I said to Alice. “ She was 
merely trying to kill you, and, since you seem to have been 
almost as superstitious as she was, she might well have suc¬ 

The doll was a lovely object to have been put to so foul a 
use. It was a perfect little masterpiece of boudoir art, and its 
startling, perfect likeness made me shiver a little. It was Alice 
Johns in miniature. She was emotionally affected too. She was 
dubious at first about touching it, then burst into hysterical 
laughter, clasped it to her breast, began hugging it and kissing 
it and comforting it. 

“ Are you going to burn it? ” I asked. “ That’s usually the 
classic procedure. We could have a little ceremony, and if 
you think it would amuse you I could recite the old formula 
of purification.” 

“ I am not! ” she retorted with a laugh that was still hys¬ 
terical, but had relief and a spark almost of gaiety in it too. 
“ I’m going to keep it and feed it gruel without salt.. . from a 
lovely wooden spoon! ” 

The memories of the agonies she had gone through sobered 
her, and she said presently, “ If she hated me that much and 



really wanted to see me dead why didn't she have me poisoned 
and be done with it? ” 

I said, “ She did. Haven’t you realized yet that you were 
poisoned? They hang people for poisoning your body, but 
no law can touch them when they inject poison in your 

Chapter VIII 

Nail-studded Doll in Toulon 

T O poison the mind of an individual against some other 
individual is an easy, all-too-common practice—so com¬ 
mon that the phrase describing it is familiar in all languages. 
“ His mind was poisoned against her.” Thus friendships, loves, 
and family ties are broken. Thus Othello, his mind poisoned 
by Iago, murders Desdemona. 

Poisoning group minds against other groups is an equally 
familiar phenomenon. Common metaphors frequently con¬ 
ceal deep metaphysical truths. The term ‘ spellbinder ’—origi¬ 
nally applied only to the actual witch or sorcerer—has become 
a common appellation for the rabble-rousing orator. Baboon 
talk, direct in its appeal to the emotions, short-circuiting the 
mind and substituting feeling for thinking, sets nations at each 
other’s throats. Adolf Hitler is a bloodier witch and weaver 
of evil incantations than the foulest witch in any German 
fairy-tale. The poisoning of minds against somebody or some¬ 
thing else is so familiar that no more need be said about it. 

But the art of poisoning an individual’s mind in a way that 
will cause the poison to eat inward is a more obscure pheno¬ 
menon. The witch—whether male or female, for the word pro¬ 
perly is sexless—has had a monopoly in its technique from 
time immemorial. 

By consorting with witches in primitive jungles, and in 
‘ jungles ’ even more sinister existing under cover in most 
civilized countries, I have learned most of their secrets. 

I have always been afraid of using what I know—whether 
to help a friend or hurt an enemy. Only once have I ever 
employed it as a lethal weapon, and, fortunately for such con¬ 
science as I may possess, the thing stopped short of actual 
killing, though it came close to it. 

One day after I had come back for a third time from Africa, 
and when Marjorie and I were living in the Villa des Roseaux, 




near I oulon, a distinguished ecclesiastic whom we were proud 
to call our friend brought a new acquaintance to visit us. My 
friendship with Monseigneur Delatour, extending over years 
in Paris, on the Riviera, in Algiers, and in Rome, had become 
so intimate that we called him affectionately by his Christian 
name, Rafael, and once, for some house guests who had come 
down for Christmas, he had celebrated the Midnight Mass on 
Christmas Eve in the little chapel of our villa. Afterwards, in 
the old tradition, he had laid aside his vestments to go into the 
kitchens and superintend the basting of the wild boar on which 
we banqueted. 

Because of that friendship we were cordial now towards the 
newcomer, a certain “ Abbe Penhoel,” whom he brought to 
lunch one day in April. Our Monseigneur explained that the 
Abbe, from Brittany, had been engaged for several years in 
experiments connected with extra-sensory perception, mental 
telepathy, and clairvoyance—somewhat the same sort of labo¬ 
ratory work, I supposed, that British and American uni¬ 
versities are conducting. I gradually began to suspect, however, 
during our first luncheon conversation that our visitor was 
involved in other and more dubious branches of the esoteric. 
So that I was not surprised when Rafael confided to me in the 
garden later that the Abbe possessed or believed himself to 
possess in some degree a kind of supernormal power far be¬ 
yond anything the universities were investigating. And Rafael 
had added: 

“ I think he does possess something extremely interesting, 
but I don’t altogether like it. I hesitated quite a while before 
bringing him out here to-day, but I knew you were keen on 
that sort of thing wherever it is real, or seems to be, and he 
wanted to meet you.” 

I was interested, and liked the Abbe Penhoel well enough, 
so that, holidaying in Toulon, he came back to Les Roseaux 
often. He enjoyed swimming, canoeing, walking. I was finish¬ 
ing a book. His frequent presence was an agreeable diversion 
for Marjorie, who found him interesting and liked him pretty 
well too. 

He and she often sat on the beach in front of our terrace 
after swimming and talked mysticism by the hour, engaged 
sometimes in harmless palm-reading—and then, for reasons 



which it didn’t occur to me were any of my business at the 
time, she seemed to take a sort of dislike to him. He con¬ 
tinued coming to the house, and it was only long afterwards 
I learned that he had made a violent ‘ declaration ’ to Mar¬ 
jorie. He had tried to force his attentions on her, and her 
refusal was probably the motive for what followed. I knew 
nothing of this at the time, so that we all kept seeing each 

One afternoon—this was in late April—the Abbe Penhoel, 
our Monseigneur Delatour, a couple of French authors, and 
a publisher were having aperitifs and tea. The talk turned to 
work. The publisher or somebody asked Marjorie what she 
was working on now, and she told, with eager enthusiasm, 
about a novel she was planning, of how she looked forward 
with real pleasure to writing it; of how she meant to begin 
that very week, and intended to have it completed by the last 
of October. 

They had all gone away and it was getting towards dinner¬ 
time, and I was down on the beach watching the sunset, when 
our maid, Anna, came and said, “ Monsieur, you had better 
come to the house. Madame Marjorie is crying.” 

I found her on the sofa of the funny little French parlour, 
off from the big living-room, seldom lighted and almost never 
used. She was shaking with sobs, her face buried among the 

She lifted her wet face and sobbed, “ Willie, I am so terribly 

I got it out of her very slowly, partly because I think she 
was afraid it would make me unhappy too. 

“ Do you and Rafael believe those things? Do you believe 
the Abbe can foresee things? ” she pleaded. 

“ I don’t believe it,” I said. “ But nobody knows for sure. 
That’s what the psychologists and so many of the big univer¬ 
sities would give their shirts to know. I don’t mean about 
the Abbe Penhoel in particular, I mean about the whole thing 
in general.” 

She said, “ I’m so unhappy. I’m so afraid.” 

“ Let’s get this out on the carpet,” I said. “ What has he told 
you? ” 

7 6 


Then it all came out. He’d not only been reading her palm 
a while back, but had made her horoscope, done a lot of mon¬ 
key business with astrology, numerology, chiromancy, and the 
devil only knows what. He had just now told her that he was 
“ terribly sorry,” heartbroken about it, but had finally decided 
that it was best to tell her: that she was going to die in Octo¬ 
ber, before her book was completed. 

“ He said he was sure? ” I asked. 

“ Yes, he said he was sure. And I am so unhappy. I am so 

I had trouble locating Rafael, but finally got him on the 
telephone at a club where he was dining in Marseilles. I said: 

“I must see you immediately. You must come back out 
here, or I will come in to Marseilles if you prefer it. But I 
must see you to-night.” 

“ I have to go to Paris on the midnight train. You’d better 
come here,” he replied. 

We met at the Cintra, and I said: 

“ Now tell me all you know—tell me everything you know 
or have ever heard—-about this Abbe Penhoel.” 

“ I am glad you ask me,” said Rafael, “ because if I had 
known everything I now know I would never have brought 
him to your house. He has been dabbling in magic, and if he 
were not a priest—I know nothing actually or officially about 
what he is, and it’s not always easy to find out—I would call 
it black magic. I don’t like it. What has happened? ” 

“ I thought so—and plenty has happened.” I told him what 
had happened, and he crossed himself. 

I said, “ You can’t go to Paris to-night. You must find the 
Abbe Penhoel to-night, or to-morrow morning. You must 
find him immediately, and bring him to me.” 

“ You know, the parish of St Sulpice has its exorcist, a 
powerful man of God, a good, almost holy man. I know him. 
I can bring him down here,” Rafael suggested. 

“ No, I’ll handle this myself,” I said. 

This was after midnight, and it was about six o’clock the 
same morning that Monseigneur Delatour arrived at Les 
Roseaux with the Abbe Penhoel. He had routed him out of 
bed at the Grand Hotel in Toulon, and they had had coffee 



on the way. We awakened Anna, and had some more coffee. 
Marjorie stayed upstairs in her bedroom. 

I said to the Abbe Penhoel: 

“ Even if it is true it seems to me it was a rather dreadful 
thing for you to tell her. Moral obligation is a tangled prob¬ 
lem in such a case, but even if it is true it seems to me that 
you should not have told her. If you are not absolutely cer¬ 
tain it was a wicked thing to tell her.” 

“ I am terribly sorry, tragically sorry, but I am sure that 
it is true,” he replied. 

“ You are absolutely sure? ” I asked. 

“ Alas, yes! ” 

I said, “ I beg you to go all over it in your own mind here 
and now. Take all the time you want. Rafael and I will go 
into the garden if you like, or you can have my study if you 
want, for quiet. But I beg you to consider whether there isn’t 
something you have overlooked which makes it uncertain, 
which makes it a possible misreading of your signs and omens, 
or whatever you call them! 

“ No, I struggled and suffered with it all night after I left 
you. I am terribly sorry,” he replied. 

“ Are you absolutely sure that it is sure? ” I repeated. 

“ Yes, I am sure,” he said. 

Then I knew what I was going to have to do. I said: 

“ Monsieur the Abbe, in these deep esoteric delvings of yours 
have you ever heard of fan-shaped destiny? ” 

“ No, what is it? ” he asked. 

“ Well, it is not in any book. I learned about it from the 
black witch Wamba with whom I lived on the Ivory Coast.” 

He looked at me level-eyed, and repeated, “ I have never 
heard of it.” 

I got up and whistled a silly tune, Les Gars de la Marine, 
which the sailors sing when they are drunk and gay. I lighted 
a cigarette and offered him one. 

He was a little disturbed, but not much. I said, lightly: 

“ Au revoir, Monsieur the AbbA It was nice of you to 
have taken the trouble to come out this morning.” 

He got up to leave, still suave, grave, polite, impeccable, but 
I knew he would ask me about the fan shapes before he went 
away. And he did. 


I said carelessly, “ You’ve really never heard of them? ” 

“ No,” he said. 

“ Well, that’s just too bad for you, Monsieur the Abbe.” 

“ Why? ” he asked. 

And I said, “ Because Marjorie is going to be well and radi¬ 
ant in October—but whether you will be alive then is going 
to be extremely doubtful.” 

“ What are you going to do, my son? ” asked Rafael. 

I said, “ I want you to keep your clean hands off it. It’s a 
dirty business.” 

“ I still think you should let me bring the exorcist, and you 
know that I shall have an impersonal, unpleasant duty to per¬ 
form later if this so-called Abbe has ever really been ordained, 
which I begin to doubt, but in the meantime it shall be as you 

“ Thank you,” I said. “ And in answer to your question I 
don’t know what I’m going to do yet, because I’m not sure yet 
what I’m fighting. It’s a dangerous thing for a clairvoyant, 
even though he is a man of goodwill and a Christian, to be 
playing also with black magic. It is intrinsically evil, because 
the clairvoyant, even though he be a man of goodwill, is under 
the temptation, consciously or subconsciously, of using his 
magic to bring about the fulfilment of his prediction. Simply 
perhaps as a protection to his ego, his human vanity, his pres¬ 
tige. It may be that this is a case of that sort. But it may be 
that it’s something even more wicked. It may be that our 
Abbe determined to bring about the death of Marjorie because 
he wished her dead, and 4 foresaw ’ her death anteriorly. If it 
is this latter he deserves, of course, that I should kill him, 
deserves it as much as if I saw him trying to stick a knife in 
her. If it is the former I should not want to have his death 
on my hands. I don’t know yet what I am facing or what I may 
have to do, but I am very much afraid of this Abbe Penhoe] 
—and, being afraid of him, I’m going to attack him.” 

“ It’s all very dangerous,” said Rafael. 

“ I know it’s dangerous, and I’m terribly sorry, but you 
must keep your hands off it,” I replied. 

Before going to Paris Monseigneur Delatour asked me to 
tell him about Wamba’s fan-shaped destiny, and I did so to 



the best of my ability. Wamba believed and taught me that 
all possible future events exist already in time and space. This 
sounds like pure fatalism, but it is not. For she believed also 
that the future, if foreseen, might be to some degree controlled. 
And the real purpose of fetish consultation and divination is 
to decipher and control the future. Those of us whites who 
are fatalists at all usually believe in a predestination, provi¬ 
dence, or kismet which cannot be changed, from which there 
is no escape. What is going to be will be. But Wamba 
believed differently. She believed that fate, though written, 
projects itself into the future not as a straight line, but fan¬ 
shaped, in a myriad alternate paths, multiplying to infinity. 
She had conveyed to me this difficult concept of fan-shaped 
destiny by an ingenious analogy. 

I am walking in an unknown forest. There are as many 
directions to walk as there are points of the compass. I know 
nothing of what awaits me in any direction, but in all direc¬ 
tions fate awaits me, things already written in the sense that 
they embryonically exist already, and are there inevitable, but 
alternate, depending on the path I take. In one path there is a 
tree from which I will pluck refreshing fruit. In another a 
panther waits to leap upon me, which, if taking a side path, I 
shall kill instead of becoming its predestined victim. Beside 
another path there is a good spring of water. In another direc¬ 
tion there is an elephant trap into which I will fall and be 
impaled on the stakes. In still another a friendly camp where 
I shall be well treated. And all these things are written fan¬ 
shaped in the future. Wamba taught me—as is so often the 
case in the deeper ‘ jungle ’ of all human life—that no process 
of logic or reason can disclose whether it is better to turn right 
or left. And since we are continually moving in some path or 
other from the womb to the grave, since even stopping to 
stand still is also a form of moving, no tiniest choice in the most 
trivial matter, no event, itself however trivial, is without its 
potentiality to change one’s future life. Therefore the Negro 
primitive consults the fetish; therefore he devises charms and 
gris-gris to protect him in the labyrinth. If we have no faith 
in his methods we can at least begin to understand why he 
deems it necessary to try something. We whites often recog¬ 
nize, and sometimes with a shock, that despite all our processes 



of logical foresight we also walk in this blind labyrinth, not 
knowing where any path will lead. The gate clangs shut and 
you miss your train by a split second because you fumbled for 
pennies when you bought a morning newspaper; and next day 
in another paper you read of the wreck, with a list of the 
dead ... a list that would have contained your name inevi¬ 
tably. Usually the drama is less sudden, less spectacular, less 
final, but seemingly pointless hazards or decisions change all 
our lives. “ Come over and make a fourth at bridge this even¬ 
ing? ” “ Sorry, Fve got some work I ought to do.” You are 
hesitating, and your friend has almost hung up the telephone. 
Just before it clicks you say, “ Oh, well, I’ll come over anyway.” 
During the evening a girl drops in whom you have never seen, 
nor heard of, and six months later you marry her. To-morrow, 
for all I know, I may go to the corner for a packet of cigarettes, 
and be run over by a lorry—or start another sequence that will 
make me five years hence a millionaire, or put me in the gutter. 
Now the basic difference between Wamba’s mind and mine, or 
yours, is that, while we regard all such blind sequences as un¬ 
predictable and therefore uncontrollable, she believes they 
form a mysterious pattern which can be to some degree de¬ 
ciphered, and hence controlled. This, I think, is one of the 
fundamental elements of black primitive psychology and 
sorcery. In the fan-shaped labyrinth of life where neither logic 
nor consciously directed will seems adequate the savage seeks 
for supernatural guidance in his fetishes, as the Christian seeks 
it on his knees in prayer. 

Rafael was actually on his knees before he said good-bye 
to us, and, unless you choose to call his prayers an interference, 
he kept his hands off everything until the finish, except that 
on his advice I had Marjorie gone over by a couple of the best 
doctors in Marseilles. He wasn’t wanting me to have a possible 
murder on my conscience if it turned out that the Abbe had 
really been clairvoyant, had really sensed intuitively that the 
Angel of Death, through no human wish or guilty volition of 
his own, was actually at the threshold of Marjorie’s door, 
already tapping, if ever so gently. 

But the doctors said, “ Organically and functionally she’s 
as sound as a bell. Her normal life expectation is fifty years ... 
half a century . . . anything you choose to guess. Has she 


been sick? She seems nervous. What’s all this about, any¬ 
way? ” 

I said, “ Oh, nothing. She’s just got nervous about some¬ 

As a matter of fact, she was terribly frightened, already 
depressed, acutely conscious of all her physiological processes, 
and imagining all sorts of things. That’s the way it always 
begins. If you become acutely conscious of your visceral 
organs and functions, heart, kidneys, respiration, no matter 
how sound they are, they’ll soon begin to bother you. Add 
ordinary fear, and you’ll be ill. Add superstitious terror, and 
you’ll crack up completely. 

In the practice of witchcraft and black magic one can have 
‘ bad breaks,’ and 4 lucky breaks,’ just as in anything else. I 
hadn’t decided exactly yet on my whole plan of action, but 
almost immediately, before three days had passed, Basil Orlet 
came tearing down from Paris in his little Bugatti to see me. 

:! Something had happened which was good fortune for me, and 
j the reverse for the Abbe Penhoel. The Abbe had confided what 
j he was justified in calling my threat on his life to my friend Or¬ 
let. It was natural that he had done so, since he knew nothing 
of our close friendship. Orlet was reputed to know more about 
black magic and white magic, their history, technique, mech- 
; anics, limitations, than any other man in Europe. A hard- 
boiled, brilliant, and successful journalist, this had been his 
I lifelong hobby, as some people go in for Sanskrit or porcelain 
—except that he was more than a dilettante. In 1927, dabbling 
in the black side of it, he had got mixed up with one of the 
Satanist groups in Lyons, which had later wanted to use him 
for some purposes of their own that were definitely criminal. 
They had refused to release him, and when he defied them 
had made the threat that they would destroy his little daugh¬ 
ter. Orlet, devoid of superstition and knowing that magic has 
nothing supernatural in it, nevertheless highhandedly em¬ 
ployed their own technique against them—in reverse—and 
beat them with it! It was as beautiful as a Ghristmas festival 
in the Orlet apartment on the Champs-Elysees, and the little 
daughter thought it was a lovely new game her papa had in¬ 
vented to amuse her. On the face of her nursery door there 
hung a Crusader’s great sword, reversed so that it formed the 




Holy Cross, and around its keyhole and hinges were festooned 
sprigs of laurel. On the windows and in the chimney were 
other herbs and symbols, some of them Christian white magic, 
some pagan, from the ancient, older formulas. And around the 
whole nursery area, running through, in, and out of the other 
apartments, was laid down in white enamel instead of chalk 
the sacred pentagram. In addition to this the child and the 
Breton nurse wore necklaces beneath their garments on which 
were tiny sacred medallions and other amulets, ancient before 
Christ ever cast out demons by the shores of Galilee—so that 
they went out regularly to walk in the park as usual. On top 
of this he sent messengers down to Lyons to tell them all about 
it, adding that if they didn’t instantly lay off he would cease 
merely defending—and destroy them utterly! 

“ It was nonsense,” had said Orlet, with savage cynicism, 
“ but it was the right nonsense. If you engage in that sort of 
* nonsense ’ you must go the whole hog, and leave no loopholes. 
They didn’t dare to strike back—then or ever.” 

They were afraid of him and ‘ it ’ because none of it was 
nonsense to the Diabolists, who are as sincere fanatical believers 
as any other superstitious sect or any jungle savage. They 
didn’t dare touch the child any more than you would have 
dared to touch a hooded cobra. 

The lucky break I now had was that Orlet knew what I 
had learned and done down on the Ivory Coast, and being my 
devoted friend, and no friend of the Abbe’s, and sensing that 
there was a war between us, had had no mercy and no scruples. 
He had said: 

Good God, man, I don’t know what you’ve done—whether 
you were sincere, or right, or not, or where justice lies—but 
I’m sorry for you, and I don’t know what to advise you. I had 
rather you didn’t tell me anything more about it.” 

The Abbe had asked, “ Why? ” and Orlet had said: 

“ Because I think you are probably going to die in the month 
of October. You might as well have stirred up all the black 
witch-doctors of the West Coast, and if you’ve ever been down 
there you know what that means! That American, crude as he 
is, has learned more than a white man ever ought to learn. 
I m afraid he’s going to kill you—and don’t misunderstand me. 
He won’t do it by any method the police could stop! ” 


“ Do you believe those things, M. Orlet? ” the Abbe had 

And Orlet had said: “ I don’t believe them, I know them. 
Just the same, unless I misread your nature and psychology, 
there’s one piece of advice I can give you. Unless you know 
more about them than I think you do, your only possible pro¬ 
tection hangs there round your own neck—your crucifix.” 

And then, Orlet told me, the Abbe Penhoel had admitted, 
in a moment of panic: 

“ Alas, monsieur, l cannot use that” 

And that was really what Orlet had come down to tell me. 
Also, he had come to help me. We knew what we had to do 
—and ruthlessly set about doing it. I know, of course, as 
Orlet had known about the swords and laurel, that some of 
the things we did were in a manner of speaking ‘ nonsense,’ 
but also knew that they would not be nonsense to the Abbe 
Penhoel. Orlet—who was stronger, more self-confident, and 
a better man than I am—had been content to defend. I was 
afraid, and was attacking. 

I bought an ugly little doll, and dressed it as a little false 
priest in black robes, with a little crucifix reversed dangling 
from its neck, with a tiny little symbol of a toad. I drove some 
brass-headed tacks into the region of its kidneys, and a couple 
more into its little belly. Then I photographed it, made one 
print, destroyed the negative, and had the print sent to the 
Abbe Penhoel—from a house of prostitution in Marseilles. 
What I did with the doll afterwards, and for a number of suc¬ 
cessive weeks, involves a seeming contradiction to my major 
thesis and belief that the ugly little doll intrinsically is utterly 
harmless; that it couldn’t harm the Abbe Penhoel except 
through his direct knowledge and desperate fear of it; that the 
sole power of witchcraft lies in the open field of suggestion ; 
and that the suggestion can be implanted and intensified only 
through the channels of the normal, ordinary, direct senses. 
I found myself now inconsistently, like any thirteenth-century 
coven witch, like Wamba in the jungle, weaving the old nur¬ 
sery-rhymed hatred ‘ incantations ’ round that ugly, silly, 
inanimate little doll. I spent a lot of concentrated time and 
effort—which takes the juice out of the man who’s doing it— 
wishing and willing the Abbe to suffer and waste away. 



How can I explain or justify that inconsistency? How after¬ 
wards continue the assertion of my reasoned belief that there 
is absolutely nothing even supernormal—much less super¬ 
natural—in the power of witchcraft? 

I can only answer as Chesterton did when asked if he be¬ 
lieved in ghosts. “ Absolutely not/’ he replied sincerely, and 
added with rare candour, “ but I’m afraid of them! ” Well, 
I was afraid—afraid I might be wrong. I was sure there was 
nothing supernatural in the hocus-pocus—but afraid I might 
be wrong in denying any power to the supernormal. If Profes¬ 
sor Rhine and his colleagues are on the right track—if extra¬ 
sensory emanations, telepathy, clairvoyance, etc., are authentic 
phenomena, if ordinary playing cards or cards marked with 
circles, stars, and wave lines can send out any emanations 
whatsoever that can be picked up in any manner whatsoever, 
other than through direct impact on one of the five normal 
senses—then a witch’s doll can send out extra-sensory emana¬ 
tions too! If Upton Sinclair can focus on the pencilled drawing 
of a cat or kitchen fork and reach his wife by telepathy across 
an ordinary room it is possible the witch can focus on the doll 
and reach his enemy with concentrated, poisoned thoughts 
and images, with evil and destructive images, across Africa, 
or France. I intend to give my full reasons later for doubting 
that anything of the sort has ever been conclusively proved, 
but it remains the final open question—the last veil of mystery 
after the veil of superstition has been torn away. And in this 
ugly combat, with Marjorie’s life at stake, I wasn’t taking any 

I spent all the emotional force I had, with the doll as my 
unholy symbol—precisely as believers in the pure white magic 
of religion spend hours before their images which are some¬ 
times dolls too, but clean and sacred, bathed in the pure light 
of faith and love. I was saturating mine with darkness and 
evil, if I could. 

I cannot know, and indeed must doubt, that I succeeded 
in projecting any psychic poison, any extra-sensory aura of 
evil and destruction which could cause my enemy to feel it 
through any mysterious channels of the supernormal. Indeed, 
I had seen to it—by devious but normal means, with the 
indirect help of Basil Orlet—that the Abbe, who believed 



implicitly in all of it, believed in a way that neither I nor most 
of my readers can, was kept fully informed, and progressively 
informed, of everything I was doing to him in that doll-effigy. 

In August a letter came by registered post from the Abbe 
Penhoel, saying that he was dreadfully sorry, wanted humbly 
to ask forgiveness for the terrible mistake he had made, and 
to reassure Marjorie; that there was something he had mis¬ 
read, wrongly read, about Marjorie’s predestined life-cycle; 
that he now knew he was wrong, and would never forgive him¬ 
self —though he prayed that we would—for having needlessly 
frightened us. He was begging me to cease. But this was only 
August. October was still two months away. The end of 
October was three months away. And I was afraid to answer 

In September he was in a hospital in Paris, and the doctors 
thought they knew what was the matter with him. He was 
suffering excruciating pain in the region of the kidneys, and 
they were thinking of operating. I repeat that I am devoid 
of superstition, and I guess I was devoid of pity too. I was 
elated, and it seemed to me that Marjorie, who had lost weight, 
lost her healthy glow, and been a sort of malade imaginaire 
all summer, was picking up and beginning to be herself again. 
I wanted no needless homicide on my conscience, but I didn’t 
know what to do. Marjorie was no longer deeply unhappy or 
in terror, but she was still unconsciously, if not outspokenly, 
afraid of the month of October. 

In his extremity, as I learned finally, the Abbe had sent for 
Monseigneur Delatour to confess that he’d been guilty of 
commerce with things that were anathema, to beg Rafael’s 
intervention in the saving of his life and his soul, which he was 
now convinced were both in mortal danger. Rafael came south 
to talk with me, and the talk was very solemn. He said: 

“ The wretched man is penitent and sick to death. There 
are two sides of this both of which concern me deeply, and 
which I must try to explain to you. Not even witchcraft and 
not even murder—if he had caused Marjorie’s death—is the 
sin against the Holy Ghost. The infamous dabbler in magic 
Gilles de Retz, once Joan of Arc’s field marshal, who was 



guilty of a series of atrocious murders, made a full formal 
confession, was granted the last rites of the Church on the eve 
of his execution, and Masses were said for him after his death. 
You may not believe in the immortal soul, but I do believe in 
it, and I want to tell you solemnly that you may not only have 
his physical death on your conscience as truly as if you had 
shot him, but may be the instrument of his soul’s damnation. 
He has already taken his demission, of course, is no longer a 
priest (if he ever was a true one), expresses an abject repent¬ 
ance ; and, if he has time on earth to prove his sincerity, may 
yet be saved from an eternity in hell! ” 

I said, “ Whether I believe literally in those things or not is 
beside the question, isn’t it? You believe in them, and I sup¬ 
pose the Abbe, believing in satanic supernatural forces which 
transcend reason, must believe in the other face of that coin 
too. If that is so, his demission and confession must have 
already eased him a little? ” 

4 That is true,” replied Rafael. “ Long before the doctors 
ever learned it we men of God have known that an inflamed 
conscience can often have as fatal consequences as an inflamed 
appendix. Rut, mind you, he is also suffering from a deadly 
horror-fear of you and your machinations. . . .” 

All right, I said, “ you can go back and tell Penhoel that 

I’ve laid off it. You can assure him that I’ve ‘ cleansed it ’_ 

he’ll know what that means—and that I’m willing to wash it 
up for ever. But you must add, and I mean it, that unless Mar¬ 
jorie is blooming and in perfect health on the midnight of 

the last day of October 111 see to it that he dies writhing; in 
agony! ” 

October came and passed, Marjorie was radiant, and the 
former Abbe was still alive, recovering. I was the one who was 
sick, it is always like that. What I had been doing always 
injures one, weakens one, debilitates and wears one out, inevi¬ 
tably. Discard and forget, I beg you, the demons, dolls, and 
mumbo-jumbo. What you are actually doing is tearing out 
your own emotional guts at the same time you’re trying to tear 
some one else s emotional guts to pieces. I have paid a heavy 
price for learning these things. And I shall never practise that 
sort of magic again, whether for good or evil. 


Despite these overtones, I believe that a true way of recount¬ 
ing this entire story would be to say simply that the Abbe 
Penhoel sought to bring about Marjorie’s death by arousing 
her fears through the piled-up forces of suggestion, and that 
I saved her solely and simply by tossing the ball back to the 

Part Two 



.! Concerning Vampires and Werewolves 
i in General 

T HEY are harder to collect than dolls. Like the ground 
hog, they emerge infrequently. Like the hedgehog, they 
discourage familiarity. One doesn’t intimately encounter 
! vampires and werewolves at every hex-infested crossroads or 
find one hidden in every witch’s cellar. Though a considerable 
; part of my life has been spent following twisted roads and 
! descending into darkened cellars, I have met only one vampire, 
:j one panther-man, and two werewolves. Those encounters, how- 
| ever, were more than sufficient to confirm my worst beliefs 
: about them. Here again are phenomena—never supernatural 
—but just as dangerous and deadly as the doll. 

In fiction the vampire is nearly always a gaunt, sinister 
i ghost-man, cousin to Bram Stoker’s Dracula ; or a super- 
! naturally pale but lovely woman with green eyes and red hair, 
:| cousin to Hanns Heinz Ewers’ Alraune and Balzac’s Succubus, 
who pierces tiny, neat holes in the victim’s throat and drinks 
the blood. 

In classical and pagan superstition, in medieval Church lore, 
in the thundering anathemas of Kramer and Sprenger for the 
Holy Inquisition, in Malleus Malefic arum (“ Hammer against 
Witches ”), in the Bull of Pope Pius VIII—and even to-day— 
s the vampire is a dead man or dead woman who breaks out of 
the coffin, as did the Algerian monk from his cell in the scan- 
| dalous limerick, goes about neatly puncturing plump victims’ 
| throats, and returns to the grave feeling better—as full of 
fresh new blood as a Jersey mosquito. But, being already 
dead, as it were, the vampire is not nearly so easy to kill as 
the mosquito. You must dig it up, exorcize it, sprinkle holy 
water over it, and bury it again at a crossroads with a wooden 
stake driven through its heart. 

In fact—that is, in fact as opposed to fiction, hocus-pocus, 



ecclesiastic tommy-rot, and superstition—the vampire is a 
diseased and sometimes hallucinated human being, psychotic 
rather than criminal, with a pathological taste for human 
blood—but not necessarily a taste for murder. Vampires 
usually belong in Bloomingdale or Matteawan, but seldom in 
the electric chair. Vampires generally do not raven or rip, but 
prefer to feed daintily on blood, as does the humming-bird on 
nectar from a flower. If the victims die, as did those of the 
lovely Countess Elizabeth Bathory, it is just too bad—but 
murder is never the vampire's objective, any more than it’s the 
objective of the humming-bird to kill the hollyhock. 

Now the werewolf is a somewhat different animal. In fiction 
and superstition it runs a pretty close four-footed parallel to the 
vampire—except that instead of merely sipping blood like 
cider through a straw, it ravens, kills, and devours the flesh of 
its victims. To Kramer, and to Reginald Scot, who wrote the 
classic Discoverie of Witchcraft for King James I, Royal 
Inquisitor of Scotland, as well as, perhaps, to many people in 
this Year of Our Lord 1941, the werewolf is a human being 
supernaturally transformed into a beast, and capable of chang¬ 
ing back and forth, from two-legged to four-legged, at will, 
with the help, of course, of the devil. 

Now the werewolf in actual, bloody fact—and here we’re 
getting somewhere—always turns out to be two-legged, un- 
furry, and unsnouted, no matter how gory its human jaws may 
be. The werewolf is a pathological case, a hallucinated human 
being, like the vampire, but too savage to be caged in Bloom¬ 
ingdale or any sanatorium. He’d better be shot down like 
Pretty Boy Floyd and Dillinger, and often is, but if he’s cap¬ 
tured alive the only safe place to put him is in the strongest 
cell at Matteawan, or in the electric chair, if the jury is un¬ 
sympathetic towards “ criminal insanity.” 

Explosion of the two superstitions that the vampire is an 
unlaid corpse and the werewolf a man changed supernaturally 
into a snouted beast never brought back any mangled victims 
or mitigated the grief of their families. Yet we have over 
and over again in scores of books written by supposedly sen¬ 
sible commentators and historians the same silly non sequitur 
which has made of most modern books denouncing the old 



superstitions of witchcraft arrant trash. Because the vampire 
and werewolf are not supernatural creatures, if you please, they 
consequently don’t exist at all! 

Pages of substantiated history, both lay and medical, reliable 
encyclopaedias, including the Britannica, and the verified re¬ 
ports of reputable news agencies, including the Associated 
Press, contain hundreds of cases which corroborate my 
rational thesis that vampires and werewolves—that is, diseased, 
hallucinated humans with a lust for blood or human flesh 
—exist and always have existed, and frequently themselves 
believe that witchcraft and the devil are mixed up in it. 

I have no intention of cluttering this book with intermin¬ 
ably resurrected cases. Instead I’m going to get on with it, 
first giving you, as a preliminary to my own encounters with 
these phenomena, one full-length portrait from the past. The 
lady deserves to be included despite the fact that she died long 
ago. She is par excellence the world champion lady vampire 
of all time. Her score was eighty—and she fits into my thesis 
for the additional reason that she practised witchcraft and 
black magic all her life. 

Chapter II 

World. Champion Lady Vampire 
of All Time 

C LEOPATRA, Greek queen of Egypt, bathed in the milk 
of wild asses. Pope Sixtus V, on the advice of his physi¬ 
cians, bathed in the blood of oxen. Anna Held, French wife 
of Flo Ziegfeld, bathed in Grade A milk from contented 
cows. Earl Carroll’s girl bathed in a tub of champagne—and 
police promptly raided the party. 

The spoiled and beautiful Countess Elizabeth Bathory 
bathed habitually in the blood of young maidens. The then 
more tolerant police finally got as far as raiding her party too, 
but only after she had ‘ milked ’ of their life’s blood somewhere 
between eighty and three hundred serving damsels. 

She had begun, apparently, by merely drinking human 
blood, as is the custom of the more dainty vampires—and as 
Earl Carroll’s girl doubtless did with the champagne—but pre¬ 
sently she was using it for beauty baths as well, and eventually 
she became the messiest lady vampire in all history. 

She also practised magic and was a witch. Though mistress 
of vast estates, chatelaine of Csejthe, kin to kings and cardi¬ 
nals, cousin to Count Gyorgy Thurzo, then Prime Minister 
of Hungary, and destined to become family namesake in 
reverse of the luxurious ocean liner Bathori, which plies, or, 
rather, did ply, between Hoboken and Danzig, she trusted 
most in her own witchcraft, and depended on her coven and 
familiars, rather than her family power and wealth, to protect 
her from arrest. 

Most of all, she depended on a certain incantation, written 
on parchment, kept continually on her person. By one of those 
curious coincidences which foster the survival of superstition 
this parchment was lost or stolen on the day before she was 
arrested. It has never been found, but it’s easy to guess what 
was in it. For on discovering its loss she hurried to the forest, 




gathered the witches of her coven, waited until night when 
clouds and stars were in the sky, and returned to the chateau 
with a new incantation, similarly inscribed on parchment, and 
which is a matter of court record: 

Isten, help me! Isten, help me! You little cloud, help me 
too! Give health, protection, and long life to Elizabeth. You 
little cloud, when I am in danger send ninety-nine cats! I order 
you to do so because you are supreme commander of the cats. 
Give orders to the cats. Tell the cats to gather from wherever 
they be, on mountains, water, rivers, seas. Order ninety-nine 
cats to come with speed and bite the heart of King Matthias. 

' Order them to bite the heart of Moses Cziraky, and to bite also 
the heart of my cousin, the Prime Minister. Command them 
to claw and bite the heart of Red Megyeri. And keep Elizabeth 
safe from harm. 1 

It’s pretty good as incantations go, and if the Government 
officials had been sufficiently superstitious they might never 
have dared touch her. A guess is that the police may have 
stolen and burned the original incantation, and didn’t know 
this duplicate had been concocted. At any rate, the new one 
didn’t work. On New Year’s Eve, 1610, the castle of Csejthe 
was raided, the New Year’s Eve party interrupted, and the 
countess put under arrest. 

The army of cats failed to arrive in force, but by another 
queer coincidence the village priest, who had denounced her 
and who came with the police, was attacked, severely scratched, 
and bitten by a corporal’s guard of cats as he mounted the 
interior staircase. Six “ enchanted cats,” accompanied by a 
flurry of “ enchanted mice,” which also tried to bite him, were 
chased all over the castle and finally disappeared into “ thin 

My own four cats here in Dutchess County, 1941, have a way 
of disappearing magically just after they’ve clawed the dog, 
stolen the meat, or knocked over a vase of flowers; so that the 
village priest in Niyatra County, 1610, who was a reputable if 
credulous old gentleman, may easily be forgiven for believing 
the countess’s cats were phantoms. And for adding the en¬ 
chanted mice! 

These cats and mice, by the way, have been hiding for three 

1 The names are those of the Government and police officials whom she 

9 6 


centuries in a gold mine whose vein I discovered in the New 
York public library, with the help of Hungarian translators. 1 
Neither English, French, German, Italian, nor any of the more 
generally known and more easily translatable languages have 
ever given much space to the Countess Bathory. The encyc¬ 
lopaedias, including the Grand Larousse , give only this brief 

Elizabeth Bathory, wife of Count Nadasdy Bathori, slew 
eighty peasants in her chateau in Csejthe, Niyatra County, 
Flungary, to bathe in their blood. Surprised in the act (1610), 
she was condemned to life imprisonment. 

The untranslated material, including the biography by 
Dezso, is authoritative, scholarly, and rich. The Countess 
Bathory 2 * * was born in 1560 on one of the vast Bathory family 
estates, on the edge of the Carpathians. The family was for 
centuries one of the wealthiest and most outstanding in Cen¬ 
tral Europe. One of her relatives was a cardinal, another was 
Prince of Transylvania, and one became King of Poland. It 
included also bishops, sheriffs, governors of provinces, judges. 
They had always been a hard and cruel, if able, family, and 
by the time Elizabeth was born were a decadent and degener¬ 
ate, though still powerful, side branch of royalty. A favourite 
aunt of hers was a notorious Lesbian. An uncle was a diabolist 
and practised witchcraft. Her brother, oversexed, was a satyr. 
Elizabeth was betrothed as a child to Count Ferencz Nadasdy, 
a great soldier, who became afterwards the famous “ Black 

1 Dezso Rexa, Bathory Erzsbbet, Nadasdy Lerencnb. Based on the old 
court records. Published in Budapest by the Gyula Benko Royal Bookshop, 
1908, in Hungarian, and never translated into any other language. A 
seventeenth-century Hungarian Jesuit priest, Father Turoczi, did a learned 
speculative monograph on the psychotic—and to him perhaps diabolic— 
nature of her vampirism and blood bathing. A German psychiatrist, R. A. 
von Elsberg, published with S. Schottlaender, in Breslau, 1904, a volume 
entitled Elisabeth Bathory {Die Blutgrdfin ); Ein Sitten- und Charakter- 
bild; mit einem Tilelbilde. He apparently had no access, as Dezso did, 
to the original documents. All he does is to rehash the facts recorded by 
Dezso and the Jesuit, and then base his psychiatric opinions on them. 
Apart from a few romances and a couple of plays, superstition stuff and 
horror stuff, all in the untranslated Hungarian, there is nothing more. 
The only basic, correlated source material is contained in the old court 
documents, the volume by Dezso, and the monograph by Father Turoczi. 

2 Twice a countess, since she was born one and afterwards married Count 

Ferencz Nadasdy, she survives in history not as a Nadasdy, but under her 

own family name. 



Hero ” of Hungary. They were married on May 8, 1575. She 
was fifteen, and he was twenty-one. The Emperor Maximilian 
of Habsburg attended the wedding. King Matthias of Hun¬ 
gary and an Archduke of Austria sent wedding presents. They 
went to live in the castle of Csejthe, in the hill country of 
north-western Hungary, still famous to-day for its vineyards, 
red wine, ghosts, and werewolves. The superb ruins of the 
castle are still standing, and there are steel engravings which 
show it in its heyday. It was like one of the dream castles 
drawn by Howard Pyle or Maxfield Parrish. It was like an 
inland Mont St Michel. Vast walls on a hillside, above a 
village, dungeons, caves, cellars, surmounted by turrets and 

Count Nadasdy was soon off to the wars, and presently the 
countess eloped with a pale young nobleman who was said to 
be a vampire. It seems he was a vampire who in this case had 
bitten off more than he could chew, because presently the 
girlish countess returned, licking her chops, while the young 
nobleman was never afterwards heard of. She was forgiven by 
her hero-husband, who returned occasionally to sleep with her, 
but for the first ten years of their marriage they had no chil¬ 

The one normal touch in this dangerous young lady was that 
she detested her mother-in-law, who had come to live in the 
castle. She preferred to associate with her serving maids, and 
occasionally amused herself by torturing them, aided by an 
old nurse named Ilona Joo, who was, like herself, immersed in 
witchcraft. Count Nadasdy was a bit of a savage himself, a 
leader of mercenary troops, and apparently had no objections 
to his wife’s torturing her little playmates, to while away the 
long winter evenings in the lonely castle. He doubtless rea¬ 
soned that it would keep her out of other mischief—such as 
eloping with visiting vampires. 

Count Nadasdy seems to have been aware also that his 
young wife was a witch. She bore him no babies in the early 
years, and he encouraged her in the concoction of charms to 
induce pregnancy. These were successful, and they later had 
four children. That he knew she was engaged in blacker 
magic is evidenced by one of her letters to him in which she 




Thorko has taught me a lovely new one. Catch a black hen 
and beat it to death with a white cane. Keep the blood and 
smear a little of it on your enemy. If you get no chance to 
smear it on his body obtain one of his garments and smear it. 

Little black hens, however, were mere caviare to the vora¬ 
cious countess. For several years prior to her husband’s death 
she had been vampire bleeding and murdering peasant girls. 
The count and countess remained on as excellent connubial 
terms as any two loving Gila monsters, and probably under¬ 
stood each other perfectly. A couple of years before he died 
she wrote him this touching, domestic, dutiful letter: 

My dear Husband, 

I am writing, as you asked me to do, about our children. 
Little Anna is healthy, thank goodness, little Orsik is well ex¬ 
cept for his sore eyes, and Kato is cutting her new teeth. Thank 
goodness I am in good health, except for occasional headaches, 
and I pray that you are in good health too, my beloved hus¬ 

Your obedient wife, 


In 1600 her husband died, at the age of forty-seven. He was 
in the prime of life. It is too late to wonder whether she’d 
smeared one of his shirts with the blood of a little black hen. 
There was no inquest. The mother-in-law was sent packing, of 
course, on the day after the funeral, and from then on, for ten 
whole years, the Countess Elizabeth was free to indulge her 
fancies. She was at that time approaching forty, and was still 
extremely handsome. There’s an excellent oil-painting, three- 
quarter length, which shows her, in the style of Holbein, in 
an immense starched ruff, jewelled stomacher, pannier skirts 
of Burgundy velvet, with an apron and puffed sleeves of sheer 
white lawn. Her hair, elaborately coifed, drawn back from 
her broad forehead, is meshed in a jewelled snood, above big, 
dark, wide-set eyes which are heavy-lidded, hard, and cruel. 
The nose is classic Greek; the chin is a bit heavy, the mouth 
curved, dimpling, and sensual, like that of the Mona Lisa. 

Among her retainers and subsequent companions in crime, 
in addition to her old nurse, the witch Ilona Joo, there was 
a sort of major-domo by the name of Johannes Ujvary; an¬ 
other manservant named Thorko, who practised sorcery; a 



second witch named Dorottya Szentes; a forest witch named 
Darvula. Accomplices among the permanent serving maids 
were two women named Barsovny and Otvos. 

It was a diabolic household with expert devil’s disciples as 
its minions. The countess, attended by them, never lacked for 
diabolic advice and suggestions when her own imagination 
flagged, but the inception of the blood baths ran parallel with 
the case of the little girl who was mentioned some years ago 
in the New Yorker. The child had a tantrum in which she 
screeched, wept, tore her copybook to tatters, stamped on the 
floor, paused out of breath, and then spat like a cat or a sailor. 
Her kindly, Christian mother said, “ The devil gets into little 
girls sometimes. The devil put you up to that. The next time 
you feel a fit of temper coming on be a brave little girl and 
say, ‘ Get thee behind me, Satan.’ ” The little girl reflected, 
and replied, “ The devil may have made me tear the book, 
stamp my feet, and scream—but the spitting was my own 

Blood baths were the countess’s own idea. I doubt whether 
she’d ever heard of Pope Sixtus V or Cesare Borgia either. The 
idea came to her as the result of an accident, which occurred 
one day while she was having an elaborate hair-do. She was 
vain, sensual, narcissistic, probably Lesbian, also took pleasure 
in the embraces of the black-bearded husband when he re¬ 
turned between battles—and consequently spent a lot of time 
having herself beautified. Since Helena Rubinstein and 
beauty parlours hadn’t yet been invented, her own maids 
worked overtime at it in the boudoir. On this particular morn¬ 
ing a maid pulled her hair with a comb, and the countess 
slapped her in the face so hard that the maid’s nose bled. 
Blood spilled on the countess’s hands, and it seemed to her 
that where the blood had fallen the skin became more smooth, 
more youthful, and more beautiful. So she began bathing in 
human blood to keep her youth and beauty. 1 

For the next ten years the castle of Csejthe was an abattoir 
and human ‘ dairy ’ in which she kept scores of peasant girls 

1 In those days blood baths, though never before involving human blood, 
had a double phony sanction of magical buncombe plus medical buncombe. 
Cesare Borgia bathed in ox’s blood, on the recommendation of his doctors, 
as a euro for pimples, and later Pope Sixtus V took similar treatments as a 



chained in the dungeons and cellars, like cattle, to be ‘ milked ’ 
of their blood until they died. Whisperings and even direct 
accusations had been rife in the countryside, but the victims 
had all been peasants, serfs, and it was less strange than it may 
now seem that the authorities were so long a time in taking 

On the night of New Year’s Eve in the year 1610 Count 
Gyorgy Thurzo, her own cousin, the governor of the province, 
accompanied by soldiers, gendarmes, and the village priest, 
raided the castle and arrested everybody in it. They had inter¬ 
rupted an orgy of blood. In the main hall of the castle they 
found one girl drained of blood and dead, another living girl 
whose body had been pierced with tiny holes, another who 
had just been tortured. In the dungeons and cellars they found 
and liberated “ a number ” of other girls, some of whose bodies 
had already been pierced and ‘ milked,’ others intact, plump, 
well fed, like well-kept cattle in their stalls. The dead bodies 
of some fifty more were subsequently exhumed. 

The countess, being a noblewoman related to royalty, was 
kept prisoner there in her own castle, while the other members 
of the household were taken to the gaol at Bitcse. They in¬ 
cluded the major-domo, Johannes Ujvary; the sorcerer 
Thorko ; the old witch-nurse Ilona Joo ; the witch Dorottya 
Szentes ; the forest witch Darvula ; several maids who were 
accomplices; and a couple of manservants. 

The trial took place at Bitcse, in January and February 1611. 
Theodosius Syrmiensis de Szulo, judge of the Royal Supreme 
Court, presided, with twenty associate judges assisting. The 
Countess Bathory was included in the indictment and evidence 
was taken against her, but she was never present in the court¬ 
room. She had been caught red-handed, refused to plead, and 
was permitted to remain during the whole time a prisoner in 
her own chateau. The charge against all of them was straight 
murder. It was a criminal trial, not an ecclesiastical trial, so 
that it was not complicated or cluttered with the issues of 
vampirism or witchcraft. 

Johannes Ujvary was first examined. A part of the testi¬ 
mony ran as follows: 

Q. How many years have you worked for the Countess 




A. I have been sixteen years in her household. 

Q. How many women, to your personal knowledge, were 
murdered by the countess and her associates? 

A. No women. That is, no married women. Thirty-seven 
girls were killed, within my direct knowledge. 

Q. Who obtained the victims? 

A. I got six of them myself. We told the girls we wanted 
them as servants. Miss Barsovny and Miss Otvos enticed 
others in the same way. 

Q. How were they killed? 

A. Well, their arms were tied behind them, then twisted 
with tight cords, tourniquet-fashion, and the veins cut with 

Q. Were they ever otherwise tortured? 

A. Sometimes the two old women, Ilona and Dorottya, 
would torture them, and when they did it well the countess 
would give them presents. Sometimes the countess tortured 
them herself. 

Q. What were the tortures? 

A. They were beaten with whips and cut with knives. Some¬ 
times we froze them in cold water afterwards. 

Q. When did the Countess Bathory begin these practices? 

A. She began long before her husband died. 

Ilona Joo’s testimony came next: 

Q. How long have you worked for the countess? 

A. More than ten years. I was the family nurse. 

Q. How many girls did you help the countess in murdering? 
A. Many, many. 

Q. How many? 

A. As many as forty. 

Q. More than that? As many as fifty? 

A. No, about forty. 

Q. Were any of them tortured? 

A. Sometimes we put heated keys and coins in their hands. 
We smeared one girl’s body with honey. When they fainted 
we used to put paper between their toes and set it on fire. 
Mostly we opened their veins with scissors. Sometimes when 
the flesh was drawn tight blood would spatter the walls. 

Other servants testified similarly, added details, helped run 
the score up to a hundred or more victims, but only eighty 
bodies were ever traced or found. At no point did witch hys¬ 
teria, vampire hysteria, superstition, or forced confession enter 



the deliberations or ultimate court findings. The incantations, 
etc., were embodied in the record, but would have been a 
matter for the Holy Inquisition. And the Inquisition was 
never called in. There was no need. The servants testified to 
the truth because there was no possible way of escaping it, and 
in the hope that complete confession might mitigate the court’s 

As a matter of fact, those of the defendants who were acces¬ 
saries, or procurers, got off lightly, as court sentences went in 
those days. They merely had their heads cut off, and their 
dead bodies were burned afterwards. The two old women Ilona 
Joo and Dorottya Szentes were convicted as principals, and had 
a worse time of it. The fingers of their hands were torn off 
one by one, and they were burned alive. 

The disposal of the Countess Bathory supplies perhaps the 
strangest touch of all in this history of hallucinated post- 
medieval horror, in which perhaps only the victims and the 
judges on the bench were completely sane. Yet, viewing the 
Countess Bathory in the Leopold-Loeb light of modern psy¬ 
chiatry, her personal case couldn’t have been more fairly 
handled if she’d had the late Clarence Darrow as a lawyer, 
with a battery of alienists and the most enlightened jury of 
to-day. What they gave her was a medieval version of the 
padded cell in Matteawan for life. They accomplished this by 
simply never sentencing her! The only sentence they could 
have inflicted from the bench was death. Her cousin, the Prime 
Minister, interceded, and they invoked red tape. She stood 
convicted, but they simply delayed passing sentence, and no 
sentence was ever passed on her. She remained imprisoned in 
her own chateau, and in order to make sure that she would 
continue imprisoned they sent stonemasons to Csejthe. They 
walled up the windows and door of the countess’s own bed¬ 
chamber, with the countess inside, leaving only slits for air 
where the windows were, and leaving where the door had been 
only a small hole in the wall through which food and drink 
could be passed. The King, Matthias II of Hungary, had felt 
at first that she should be executed, but finally agreed to 
the indefinitely delayed sentence, which was tantamount to 
solitary imprisonment for life. She died four years after she 
had been walled in, on the 21st of August, 1614. 


Dezso and Father Turoczi guess that one of the reasons why 
they walled her in, instead of merely keeping her locked up, 
is that they were afraid of her witchcraft. But whether it was 
that, or merely the reluctance of honest judges to sentence a 
madwoman to execution, they did a pretty sensible job of it, 
as things went in those days. The superstitious element of 
vampirism was hallucinated tommy-rot in 1614 as it is in 1941, 
but she was the bloodiest wholesale murderess who ever lived. 
And they had put her where she could commit no more mur¬ 
ders. If they were a bit superstitious about her they had sense 
enough to know—if some of my distinguished contemporary 
colleagues and supposed authorities have not—that one of the 
things no witch or vampire on earth can ever do is to walk 
through or break down a solid wall. 

Chapter III 

Vampire igj2 from Brooklyn, 

Mew York 

I ’D been walking in the hills behind Le Trayas, on the 
Riviera, with Eugene Bagger, the stocky little Austrian 
journalist who worked for the New York Times some years 
ago and later wrote Eminent Europeans. We’d returned to the 
town, where he had a house and where I was staying in the 
hotel, which contained that summer a number of other writers, 
painters, musicians, including some Americans. 

It was late afternoon. I was hot, and went down to the shore 
for a swim. There was a rocky, pebbled cove, a sort of inlet 
deep among the pine-trees, closer than the sand beach. Seated 
on the pebbles, alone and with her hands clasped round her 
knees, was the girl I knew as Mary Lensfield. She painted a 
little, and translated children’s books. She sat all alone there, 
staring out towards Porquerolles, where the steamers passed. 
She was a queer type, striking without being beautiful. She 
was extremely thin and pale, with flaming hair and the sort of 
greenish eyes which frequently go with pale skin and hair that 
is naturally red. I had known her off and on for quite a time, 
but never very well. I’m not sure anybody knew her very well. 
She was friendly enough, but never very gay, and apparently 
not very strong. She said “ Hello ” in an absent-minded sort of 
way. I dived from the top of a rock. In making the turn of 
the cove I swam a bit too close to another rock just under water 
and scraped my shoulder on the barnacles. It wasn’t scraped 
badly, but when I came out there was a streak of bright, shiny 
blood glistening on my wet shoulder. 

“ You’ve cut yourself,” said the girl. I sat down beside her, 
twisting my head to look at the scratch, and said, “ It doesn’t 
amount to much. I doubt if I’ll need to put iodine on it.” I 
asked her how her work was going. She was translating some 

of Mme de Segur’s stories for young people. As she was silent 



I glanced at her. She had bent closer, and was staring with 
wide, dilated eyes at the scarlet abrasion. Then she jerked 
convulsively towards me, and her teeth were in my shoulder, 
and she was sucking like a leech there—not like a leech either, 
but more like a greedy half-grown kitten with sharp-pointed 
teeth. It hurt sharply, but astonishment held me motionless 
for a second, and then a mixture of surprise, curiosity, and 
sheer amazement made me grit my own teeth and let it ride. 
She had deepened the abrasion, and was literally drinking 
blood! I am properly ashamed of it, but I sat there tense, 
perversely fascinated, and let her slake her thirst. 

A big lorry roared past on the Corniche road above us, be¬ 
hind the trees, and it was this noise, I think, that brought her 
out of it. She slumped back, terrified, her nerves torn to pieces, 
sobbing, shaking all over, with her face buried in her hands. 
I said nothing. I had been frightened too by the glimpse of 
her smeared, red mouth. But I said nothing. When she quieted 
a little, and realized that I was silent, she said: 

“ Seabrook, what shall I do? Shall I have myself locked up? 
Shall I kill myself? Or what? ” 

Everything I’d ever known about the girl had been racing 
in that silence through my mind, and some of the things, 
which had seemed pointless when they occurred, seemed now 
to have a possible new significance. Fd met her first a couple 
of years before at a party in Bob Chanler’s weird house, off 
Gramercy Park, in New York. She lived in Brooklyn Heights, 
and seldom came to Manhattan, but Boh wanted to paint her 
portrait, so she returned several subsequent times to his house, 
which I was then frequenting, and once or twice stayed over 
in the evening. On one of the evenings a queer episode had 
occurred. Bob never went in deeply for the esoteric—in fact, 
had a slight contempt for it—but his friend Stanislaus Ivorsky 
was a student of the occult, and had brought there a certain 
Madame Ludovescu, who claimed to possess supernormal 
powers, physical rather than psychic, including the ability to 
heal cuts and burns, and to staunch the flow of blood. She was 
a dowdy woman, dressed pretentiously—velvet, a big picture 
hat, long black kid gloves, and bangles. Stanislaus had brought 
a medical friend to the party, and the doctor had consented 



to be the subject for the blood-staunching experiment, but Bob, 
whose scepticism was mixed with a vast, Gargantuan curiosity 
and childish egoism, roared: 

“ I want to be the goat in this miracle! ” 

So it was agreed. The doctor got a saucer, turned back the 
sleeve from Bob’s left wrist, held it over the saucer, dabbed 
the skin with alcohol, and nicked the transverse superficial 
vein with a small scalpel. It wasn’t any pinprick either. The 
blood trickled in a slight but steady stream as we all crowded 
round the table. Madame Ludovescu bent her head, as if near¬ 
sightedly studying the puncture, wiping her unrouged lips 
meanwhile with a handkerchief, which she kept held to her 
mouth for an appreciable moment. I guess she thought we 
had our attention safely fixed on Bob’s wrist. Then she pressed 
her lips tight to the wound, seemed to breathe upon it pre¬ 
cisely as I had seen Hindu fakirs do. We heard a faint mum¬ 
bling as if of muttered prayer or incantation, and the muscles 
of her mouth were moving. It took fully a minute or more, 
and seemed longer. Then she raised her head, saying, “ It has 
ceased. You can see.” 

It was then the queer interruption had occurred which now 
brought the whole thing back to me in memory. The woman’s 
mouth and cheek were reddened, a tiny thread of scarlet 
trickled from the corner of her mouth, and as she lifted her 
face, saying, “ It has ceased,” Mary Lensfield, who had been 
watching with the rest of us, moaned and keeled over in a dead 
faint. “ It’s nothing serious,” said the doctor in a moment, 
lifting her to a couch. “ She’ll come round in a minute or two. 
The sight of any blood sometimes affects people that way.” 
And she did, and we thought nothing more of it. 

The flow from Chanler’s wrist had ceased completely, and 
the others had exclaimed now in awe and admiration, when 
Bob had shouted: 

“ Didn’t you see? Prayers my eye! She licked it like a 
puppy! I licked it myself just now, and that’s what’s caught 
her cold! I might as well have been licking green persimmons! 
Make her give you that handkerchief, if she dares. You’ll find 
it stinks of tannic acid, and probably Adrenalin. Hey, Paul! 
Give this bitch ten dollars and a drink of gin, and throw her 
out! ” 


Fd forgotten all about the Rumanian woman and her cheap 
tricks. It was only the memory now of how Mary Lensfield 
had moaned, shuddered, and dropped to the floor that brought 
the episode flashing back. And it made me remember another 
episode which had occurred more recently at Antibes. It had 
a queer angle too, which had seemed merely a casual coinci¬ 
dence at the time. The Lensfield girl had shared a room there 
with a friend, also an American girl, and the two had seemed 
to be inseparable. The friendship had suddenly been broken 
for reasons that nobody knew. The girl had moved to another 
pension. And I now sharply recalled that at the time of the 
quarrel, or of whatever had happened, this second girl had cut 
herself with an ice pick, or said she had. At Chanler’s Mary 
Lensfield had gone to pieces and fainted at the sight of blood 
on another woman’s lips. In this second instance I began to 
wonder if there had been an accident with an ice pick, and, if 
so, whose lips might afterwards have been stained. 

For here was Mary Lensfield now, her own pallid mouth 
smeared with blood—afraid that she was going mad. 

“ Has it ever happened to you before? ” I asked. 

She said, “ I was visiting a friend at Vassar. She cut herself 
on broken glass. I helped bandage it. She slept soundly that 
night. I had persuaded her to take a triple bromide. I wanted 
to kill myself next morning.” 

“ Was it something like that when you had the quarrel, if 
it was a quarrel, with that girl—I don’t recall her name—at 
Antibes a couple of years ago? ” I ventured. 

“ Yes,” she said, “ it’s as bad as that. I am what you think. 
It has happened more than once.” 

“ What did you mean by saying you were ‘ what I think ’? ” 
I asked. “ I don’t think anything except that you’re a sick girl 
who ought to see a doctor.” 

And then it was she, mind you, who whispered the old, ugly 
word ‘ vampire.’ While she talked on now, as if a flood-gate 
were opened, spilling out her sick and tortured soul, I think I 
realized for the first time a truth which has never been clearly 
stated, so far as I know, by anybody: that the persistence and 
bolstering of superstition not only fosters fear (and cruelty) in 
the public mass mind, but also helps spawn and foster the very 
horrors it attacks. Let me explain exactly what I mean, with 



reference to the vampire. The unsuperstitious individual who 
becomes afflicted with this craving for blood either sees a 
doctor or goes out and commits crimes easily dealt with by the 
police. Which of those two simple things he does depends 
simply on his moral balance. But the superstitious man or 
woman, so afflicted and superstition-ridden besides, reacts en¬ 
tirely differently. If he, or she, is a morally bad type the next 
step is, “ Ooo! I’m a vampire! ” or “ Woo! I’m a werewolf! 
I’m superman now, and nothing but a silver bullet or a stake 
driven through my heart can stop me! So I’ll go to town! 
Her or she, superstition-ridden but with a moral conscience, as 
in the case of the wretched young lady with whom I was now 
talking, says, “ Woe is me! I have become a horrible and awful 
thing. And I can do nothing to resist it. Better I were dead! 
Better I had never been born! ” 

It made me sick to learn, as we sat there and talked, of how 
this otherwise mentally normal girl, afflicted with blood-crav¬ 
ing and inclined towards a belief in heaven and hell inherited 
from over-religious parents, had wallowed in the obsessed read¬ 
ing of everything she could find on the subject of vampires. 
There’s a vast bibliography, containing lots of honest stuff, of 
course, but cluttered with learned, stupid, pious, horrid fantasy 
and supernatural doctrine, written by professors, esoterics, 
cultists, crackbrained preachers and priests, including also cer¬ 
tain celebrated modern doctors of theology. She had read 
them all absorbedly, and in three-fourths of the medieval stuff 
she had found that among the marks of the female vampire 
were pallor, thinness to the point of emaciation, red hair, and 
green eyes! Pure, crazy coincidence! Yet you can imagine 
how she must have stared in her own mirror. She knew, since 
the coincidence hadn’t driven her completely crazy—though it 
might easily have done so in conjunction with her secret know¬ 
ledge of her own blood lust—that she’d never been dead and 
buried, and that she didn’t crawl back at night to sleep in a 
vault or coffin like Lady Vere or Dracula. But that hadn’t 
helped her at all, because part of the learned, superstitious 
hogwash on the 4 nature of vampires ’ explains that if you’re 
bitten by one (and this, of course, can occur in your sleep with¬ 
out your knowing it) you’re in danger of becoming one your¬ 
self, before you die, in your own natural lifetime—just as a 



person bitten by a mad dog is in danger of hydrophobia. She 
asked me whether I believed what all those learned writers did, 
or whether I thought she was crazy. 

I gradually realized that she was not only pouring out her 
fears to me, but was also confessing her complete belief in all 
that horrid nonsense, ‘ confessing ’ herself to be of that unholy 

And I realized too as we sat there in the twilight that if this 
same misadventure had happened in this same Mediterranean 
cove a couple of hundred years before instead of in the twen¬ 
tieth century, not only would the man have fled in terror and 
reported her to the ecclesiastical authorities, but the girl would 
have made a full confession, voluntarily, without need of any 
torture, that she was a true vampire. She would have died 
believing in the justice of her condemnation, and would have 
been buried at a crossroads with a stake driven through her 
heart. I came out of those reflections angry—but not at her. 

I said, “ For Christ's sake, forget all that crazy nonsense. 
You’re not crazy, but all those goddamned supernaturalists 
are as crazy as hell. Agreed you’re a ‘ vampire,’ if you insist 
on calling it that—you’re a sort of baby vampire who could 
grow up into a monster, but you’re not a supernaturally 
doomed creature, and you’re not a criminal either, yet. You’re 
not even wicked yet. You’re just an ill, hallucinated girl and 
you ought to see a doctor. See a doctor first, and get him to 
find you a good psychiatrist, one who is an M.D. too—here or 
back home in America.” 

My advice was sound enough, but it came too late. Miss 
Lensfield followed it literally, returned to America, and put 
herself in the hands of doctors, specialists. She never suc¬ 
cumbed again to her tragic craving, but within a year she was 
dead—of pernicious anaemia. The red blood cells in her body, 
the erythrocytes, had been disintegrating. Her whole chemical 
organism had been involved in a terrific struggle to balance 
itself and survive, and it had been discovered too late for 
transfusion or anything to save her. This desperate physio¬ 
logical maladjustment had been at the bottom of her mental 
maladjustment, of her awful craving, and she’s been no more 
morally responsible for her monstrous yearnings than midgets, 



dwarfs, and giants (innocent victims of their pineal and 
thyroid glands) are for their monstrous shapes. It all makes 
part of the picture tied up with the now commonplace cer¬ 
tainty discovered in the twentieth-century merging of clinical 
medicine and psychiatry, that anomalies in the realm of 
psychology and behaviour are often traceable to chemical- 
organic causes. 

Chapter IV 

Panther-man from the Ivory Coast 

C ONFIDENTIAL interviews, exchanges of cigarettes, and 
mutual confidences with caught, convicted werewolves are 
fairly rare. Werewolves and their kin aren’t often caught alive. 
The werewolf, along with his African prototype, the leopard- 
man, panther-man, hyena-woman, is usually killed on the 
spot or escapes to commit subsequent depredations, and dies 
usually—as generals do—in bed. 

My little friend Tei, petty chief of the Yafouba, and some¬ 
time white-collar clerk in the administration offices at Dakue, 
was an exception. He had been caught red-clawed, confessed, 
been sentenced to die, and now sat in the shade of the gaol- 
yard wall, chewing kola nuts, smoking cigarettes, waiting while 
the official papers came from Bingerville to confirm the sen¬ 
tence. When not engaged in werewolfery this Tei was a beguil¬ 
ing little scoundrel, and had become, indeed, a sort of pet were¬ 
wolf now that he was caught. Clouzet, the local administrator, 
was almost beginning to be sorry they were going to have to 
shoot him. I spent hours with Tei, smoking interminable 
cigarettes, chewing kola, listening to him talk. He was a skinny 
little runt, wrinkled face, bright eyes, keen smile, with a wisp 
of a billy-goat beard that bobbed up and down as he chewed. 
He was naked now except for his loincloth, amulets, beads, 
crocodile teeth, and little leather bags strung round his neck. 
When he’d worked in the office he’d worn store clothes and 
shoes, had a fountain pen, a watch and chain. Time no longer 
made any difference to Tei, as he wiggled his toes and kept 

“ But I tell you I do turn into a panther. No—I can’t do it 
now for you! I can’t do it like that—whenever I want to. I 
can’t do it ever. It isn’t anything I do. It’s something that 
happens to me. But when it happens I am a panther.” 

“ Do you like it? ” 

“ Oh, yes,” he would answer, “ it’s nicer than being a man.” 

I 12 


“ But if you really do turn into a panther,” I kept badgering 
him for the four hundredth time, “ then why do you have to 
put on that panther skin—those mittens with iron claws? ” 

“ It’s a part of the fetish,” he’d repeat, “ it’s part of the 
magic. It’s like rubbing the panther fat, and eating the part 
of the panther’s liver, and dancing the panther dance, crouch¬ 
ing and leaping. It’s when you make the leaping that you 
become the panther....” 

Once he’d added hopefully, when I’d brought him a bottle 
of sweet vermouth, of which he was inordinately fond, “ I 
don’t know whether a white man could do it or not, but I’ll 
be glad to teach you the leaping ... and you could always try.” 

“ All right,” I’d say, getting back to the point which in¬ 
terested me most, “ but after you’ve leaped and become the 
panther, if you really become a panther, why don’t you leap 
out of the disguise? You don’t need two panther skins, and 
you don’t need the iron claws if you’ve got real ones! 

To this Tei had a variety of answers, the best one being 
that you never knew when you might suddenly change hack 
into your human shape—and be recognized. 

In the end I became firmly convinced of Tei’s sincerity, 
convinced that his hallucinations about actually turning into 
a panther were completely real—as hallucinations. I got to 
thinking about the whole queer business of subjective and 
objective reality, and it occurred to me that in the typical 
panther-man murder drama as it usually occurs in the jungle 
—and as it had occurred in the death of Blito, to which little 
Tei had confessed—there is a three-way illusion, a three-way 
subjective reality which spreads out beyond the mere illusion 
in the panther-man’s one individual brain. I’m not turning 
mystical either. By ‘ three-way subjective reality ’ I mean 
simply that three separate individuals, or groups, participate 
simultaneously in the hallucination: (i) the panther-man; (2) 
the victim; (3) the witnesses, if any. 

So it had surely been in the killing of Blito, which occurred 
as she walked in the twilight along a jungle path leading from 
her village to a spring, and of which we had full circumstantial 

Tei, in his panther garb and iron claws, believing himself 
to be a panther, completely victim of the subjective reality of 


his own frenzied illusion, had leaped, probably yowling, down 
from a branch on her shoulders, and had torn her throat out 
with the claws. 

What had Blito seen and felt in that fleeting instant as she 
died? If she had seen anything it had been the flashing form 
of a panther, leaping as a panther leaps. What she had felt is 
sure. She had felt a lithe, furry body landing on her shoulders, 
and claws tearing at her throat. She had died in the complete 
subjective certainty that she had been slain by a panther. 

When there are witnesses to these murders, as in this case 
there were, what do the witnesses see? They see a leaping 
panther, engaged in a kill, and flee screaming to raise the 

The dead Blito will never know that the panther was human 
—a were-panther. The witnesses will only learn it was a were- 
panther when the hunters come back. When it’s a real panther 
they can easily trail and find the mangled, partially devoured 
body, and the real panther’s tracks. In the absence of normal 
beast marks they suspect now it was a panther-man—and to 
them, in this completed circle of subjective reality, it was a 
man not in human form, but in a panther’s form. 

These same villagers now came often to the gaol yard to see 
Tei in his familiar human form. Sometimes they brought him 
mangoes. They bore him no malice. They believed, as he did, 
that he couldn’t help sometimes turning into a panther. They 
were sure that this would happen, for a last and final time, 
when Tei was stood up against the gaol wall and shot. After 
he’d been shot he’d no longer be there as Tei. There’d be a 
dead panther lying there, its body pierced with bullets. They 
were all coming, from miles around, to see it, because Tei’s 
case—a curious mixture of comedy, monkey-antics, and horror 
—had had our whole part of the jungle, including whites and 
blacks, in a dither for weeks on end. 

Blito, you see, had been Tei’s own jungle love—and also 
Clouzet’s—in a district where the blacks, and whites too, 
bought, sold, and swapped young Yafouba girls, wives, concu¬ 
bines, and slaves as we do puppies, cats, and hunting dogs. 
I bought one once for three dollars and a pink celluloid mirror. 
When Tei became a Government employee Blito, who was 




young, handsome, jangling with bracelets and trinkets, had 
caught Administrator Clouzet’s roving eye. The foxed-face 
little village chief, who had as many girls in his harem as he 
had chickens in his hencoop, was delighted. The natives are 
never jealous in such cases. The best thing that can happen 
to them, and they know it, is when a daughter or any othei 
female member of their household can get into a white man’s 
house, and bed. The perquisites always add up to more than 
the original * gift ’ or purchase price. Sometimes when Blito 
danced on the lawn of Administrator Clouzet’s compound to 
the accompaniment of tribal drums for our amusement Tei 
would be sitting on a stool near Clouzet’s chair and enjoying 
it as much as anybody. In those days Tei was a cocky, active, 
intelligent, likable little savage, who had feathered his nest 
with the French. Though he still wore amulets beneath his 
store clothes and the teeth of wild animals braided in his 
hair, he sported a golf cap, yellow shoes that might have come 
from Harlem, and was “ Monsieur Tei of the Administra¬ 
tion ” to the barefoot ones back yonder in his village. When 
the servants brought vermouth and Pernod Clouzet occasion¬ 
ally handed Tei a glass too, with a grin. 

That was the way things had stood at Dakue when I went 
north to join Administrator-General Bercole on a hunting trip. 
Returning to his headquarters, we heard there’d been trouble 
down in Clouzet’s district. First we heard there’d been a raid 
of Liberian leopard-men from across the river. These Liberian 
leopard societies are group versions of the Ivory Coast panther- 
man 1 and the European werewolf, and generally hunt in packs. 
They are criminal secret societies which practise a sort of 
mass lycanthropy, working themselves up to a state of frenzied 
hallucination in groups. First we heard that Blito had been 
among the victims—and then we heard the straighter report 
that Blito had been the only victim, while on a visit back to her 
native village, which was, in fact, near the river, the Liberian 
border. Clouzet, we heard, had called out a platoon of tirail¬ 
leurs, and Tei, whose village district it concerned, had been 
put in charge of the investigation. 

“ It’s a queer story,” said Bercole. “ Of course Clouzet has 

1 See Appendix, pp. 247-251. 


always been a fool, but it’s a queer story. Only Blito murdered. 
Who says there was a raid? Who says anybody came across 
the river? Ell be interested to hear what happens.” 

A week or two later we had word from Clouzet that the 
crime had been pinned on three marauding Liberians. They 
had been captured, and there was more than enough evidence 
to have them condemned and shot. Bercole, responsible for the 
whole region, still felt there was something queer about it, and 
the next day we went down to Dakue. Bercole dissimulated 
his suspicions, was mild as a lamb, congratulated Clouzet, had 
a casual look at the prisoners, and presently, as we dined with 
Clouzet, began asking innocent questions. 

How had they caught them? How identified them? Had 
they confessed yet? No, said Clouzet, they hadn’t confessed. 
They even claimed an alibi, of all things, but you knew what 
native alibis amounted to, and there was enough circumstan¬ 
tial evidence to satisfy any court anywhere. Bercole repeated 
his congratulations, and Clouzet said: 

“ Well, the credit really belongs to Tei, The tirailleurs and 
constabulary helped, but it was Tei who really pulled it off.” 

“ So,” said Bercole mildly, and I noticed he was scratching 
his head. “ By the way, who had the Liberian idea in the 
beginning? Who had the original leopard society hunch? ” 

“ It was Tei,” replied Clouzet. “ He’s a smart little head¬ 

“ Yes,” agreed Bercole, “ he’s one of the smartest. I’d like it, 
though, if we could get a confession out of those Liberians. I 
think I’ll see what I can do about that, if you don’t mind.” 

Bercole saw the prisoners, separately and together, several 
times, then was gone from Dakue for two days, came back, 
and said: 

“ They didn’t do it. They couldn’t have done it.” 

“ Are you sure? ” asked the astonished Clouzet. 

“ Yes, I’m sure—and you know what it adds up to now, 
don’t you? ” 

“ Mon Dieu! ” said the astonished Clouzet. “ It couldn’t be! 
He’s been a good Government employee for years.. . .” 

“ Ah me,” said Bercole wearily. “ I like you, Clouzet, but 
you’re a baby. This case stank long before I found out those 
poor apes you arrested couldn’t have done it. It still stinks. 



It smells. It smells so loudly that I got a little sniff of it when 
I first heard, a hundred miles away. And now Fm sure.” 

So the high-handed Bercole had acted on his hunch, arrested 
Tei, torn Tei’s fetish house to pieces, discovered hidden in the 
thatching the panther disguise, skin, bloody-clawed mittens, 
—and Blito’s anklets and bracelets, likewise stained with blood. 
Tei confessed readily, since the jig was up. He’d been turning 
into a panther, he said, from time to time, for years. 

The rigolade of the industrious and faithful little Govern¬ 
ment employee who’d been a part-time panther on his evenings 
off illogically mitigated the ghastliness of the hallucinated 
crime, but rightly failed to mitigate its expiation. 

The French have never gone in for hangings. They do it 
with a firing squad in Africa. The natives had come from 
miles around to see the execution, convinced that the body 
would turn miraculously to its panther form in death. But 
the body which lay crumpled there at the foot of the yellow 
wall outside the gaol yard was merely the body of little Tei. 
I felt a little sorry for him, for I’m sure he would have been 
surprised, as they were, that no miracle had happened. 

Chapter V 

Lady Hyena with Jewelled Earrings 

I F I am convinced, and hope to convince you, that many 
witches, vampires, werewolves, panther-men, and their kin¬ 
dred are hallucinated humans who believe in their own hocus- 
pocus and are frequently guilty as hell of murder and worse, 

I don’t mean to imply that all unhappy creatures so accused are 
thus deluded or guilty, or both. 

One of the by-products of superstition, whether primitive 
and savage or a medieval hang-over among us supposedly en¬ 
lightened whites, is that in addition to providing a contagious 
culture-medium for epidemic witchcraft and lycanthropy, it 
makes witch fear, witch hysteria, similarly epidemic, with the 
result that innocent individuals are frequently accused un¬ 
justly, persecuted, and destroyed. Also it offers a foul field for 
private plotting. 

Innocent, for instance, as any Hawthorne heroine, or 
screen-warmed-over Maid of Salem, was the handsomest and 
youngest daughter of a Mossi chief in the Upper Volta who 
was ‘ framed ’ by native priests, and subsequently murdered 
by them. The priests had convinced the countryside that the 
wretched girl was a demon-hyena, and nearly got away with 
their crime. 

I’d been up towards Ouahigouya, looking at some hippo¬ 
potami, with Bercole, who was a naturalist as well as a hunter, 
and who would as soon have shot his own pet goldfish as one 
of those amiable and lumbering water beasts. We had dropped 
in to see his colleague, M. Maillard, administrator in one of the 
Ouahigouya districts, to tell him about the hippopotami. It 
was while we were playing three-handed cut-throat bridge 
afterwards, at the administration residence, that we first heard 
about the mysterious “ lady hyena,” and I recall that my 
friends were excessively impatient about it—at first. 

The black Moslem butler had come to say in faultless, dis¬ 
creet French that a British gentleman had called who seemed 




disturbed about something, and “ wished earnestly ” to see the 
Administrator to-night. 

“ Name of a pipe! ” said Maillard. “ Tell the British gentle¬ 
man to come back at ten o’clock to-morrow morning—or tell 
him to go and jump in the Niger. Don’t you see that we are 
playing cards? ” 

Government functionaries in these isolated regions, where no 
hotels or public restaurants exist, are terribly imposed on by 
sportsmen, ‘ explorers,’ tourists, until they learn to be inhos¬ 
pitable for self-protection. Ordinarily the butler would have 
taken on himself to tell the stranger to come back next day, 
and now when the butler still stood there uncertain, reluctant 
to withdraw, I sensed something unusual. 

“ What are you standing there for? ” growled Maillard. 
“ Whatever his business is, it can wait. Get on out row! ” 

But the butler strangely held his ground. It wasn’t, the 
butler explained timidly . . . well, it wasn’t exactly business. 
The British gentleman was quite perturbed. You see, he had 
shot a hyena. . . . 

“ Name of a name of a name! ” It was Bercole who swore 
this time, pushing back his chair. “ Tell the fool to go out and 
shoot a thousand hyenas! Does he suppose there’s a closed 
season on shooting hyenas in Africa? If he’d shot one of my 
hippos . . . But who cares about hyenas! ” 

“ Monsieur Commandant,” said the now trembling butler, 
“ it was a young female hyena, and there were jewelled ear¬ 
rings in its pierced ears.” 

“The Englishman is drunk? ” asked Maillard mildly. 

“ No, Monsieur Commandant, he is not drunken, and he 
has the hyena outside. I have seen it.” 

“ I’ve always been told that anything can happen in Africa, 
but I’ve been here so long that I don’t quite believe it,” said 
Maillard, with heavy sarcasm. “ You may now bring in the 
English milord and his milady hyena.” 

The Englishman was dignified, middle-aged, stuffy, and, 
as we soon discovered, also quite annoyed. He was anything 
but apologetic for disturbing us. His attitude definitely im¬ 
plied that hyenas never wore earrings in properly run British 
dependencies. He explained that he’d been hunting at night, 


for lion, on the cliffs towards Bandiagara, and that he felt it 
necessary to report so “ unreasonable ” a happening to the 
authorities. In night hunting you wear an electric bulb, with a 
reflector, fastened round your hat or forehead, with the wires 
running to a battery in your pocket. When the light picks up 
a pair of gleaming eyes you shoot, and sometimes it’s a lion. 
If you’ve misjudged the distance, and, in consequence, the 
space between the eyes, it may be a wildcat, or even a rabbit. 
This can happen to anybody on a dark night. In this case it 
had been the hyena which the Englishman’s porters now 
lugged in and deposited, at a sign from Maillard, on a trestle- 
table so that we could examine it. It was just a dead, two- 
thirds-grown young female hyena, but the lobes of its ears 
had been pierced as women’s are, and set in the ears were a 
pair of beautiful native gold earrings encrusted with semi¬ 
precious stones of the sort found in the neighbourhood of 

The butler brought Pernod and whisky. The Englishman 
became a bit less stuffy. We all unbent and agreed that here 
was a fine how-de-do. 

The Englishman was put up in the guesthouse, the dead 
hyena locked in the office, and next morning Maillard sent 
for the local Mossi chief and his feticheur priests, the local 
witch-doctors, the native gendarme sergeant, the interpreters, 
who all came presently, rubbed their eyes—and were dumber 
than they should be. No, they knew nothing about it. No, 
they had never heard of such a thing ever happening before. 
No, they could guess nothing about it. No . . . absolutely 
not. .. none of them had ever previously seen that particular 
pair of earrings. They presently departed, but Bercole, who 
had helped to conduct the investigation, was sure they were 
lying. They’d been dumber than was necessary, he said. 

No charge could be brought against them, or against any¬ 
body. It’s no crime to put rings in a hyena’s ears and turn it 
loose on the mountainside. And when no crime is involved it 
has always been the policy of the French not to interfere with 
the feticheurs, their native temples, and their native shenani¬ 
gan and superstition. 

No further official investigation was made at this time, and 
it was plain curiosity, I think, rather than a suspicion of any- 



thing sinister, that prompted Bercole before leaving the region 
to pay an informal visit to his high-up native colleague—that 
magnificent old patriarch and reprobate, his Negro Holiness 
the Yatanga Naba, Black Pope of all the Mossi. These two 
oddly assorted tyrants—the cocky little French Administrator- 
General who took a twisted pride in his petulant, shabby infor¬ 
mality, and the superb Yatanga, who weighed three hundred 
pounds, wore gorgeous robes of silk and gold, and claimed 
descent from a black high priest of the Egyptian Pharaohs— 
had been intimates and allies for a long decade. Both were 
completely cynical, equally contemptuous of French red tape 
and jungle mumbo-jumbo, yet both loved West Africa, and 
both worked in their own devious ways towards the furtherance 
of its tangled destinies. 

The Yatanga’s palace was at Ouahigouya. Thither Bercole 
went with the jewelled earrings in his pocket, and the intrigued 
Yatanga Naba, after seeing them and hearing Bercole’s story, 
promised he’d get to the bottom of it. The Yatanga, who knew 
that a lot of the forest priests were rascals, was never loath to 
catch them out on limbs and put the fear of the devil in them. 
It was he who really uncovered the murder for us. It proved to 
be a double story, with plausible superstition motives on its 
surface, and plain crime underneath. 

The jewelled earrings, as subsequently proved, had origi¬ 
nally adorned the ears of a certain Sarah’na, youngest daughter 
of a native king named Sanou. In this territory, with French 
consent, every big tribal chief is a ‘ king,’ while the native 
temporal ruler of all the Mossi, the effeminate Moro Naba, is 
an 4 emperor.’ The titles are less ridiculous than they sound, 
for the Mossi have walled towns, adobe palaces, fine horses, 
and affect magnificent garments of brilliantly coloured leather. 
So that Sarah’na had been, in native parlance, a moso-masake , 

little princess, though it helped her not at all when her 
dreadful fate came upon her. The surface story had been that 
when she had come to the age of thirteen the priestly witch¬ 
doctors and fetish-women attached to her own household had 
discovered, in the portents and omens which resulted from the 
incantation ceremonies surrounding her initiation to woman¬ 
hood, that she was not a woman at all, but a demon-hyena_ 

which means according to their myths that a hyena had magi- 


I 2 I 

cally taken up its abode in her human body. If this were true, 
according to the belief of the Mossi, it constituted a deadly 
danger to her own family; for when the hyena possession came 
upon her, as it would some day inevitably, she would first of 
all slay her own parents—her own human father and mother. 
To kill the girl would have been no use, by their belief, 
for that would simply release a disembodied, demoniac hyena 
spirit, against which there could be no protection at all. Con¬ 
sequently she had been turned over to the priests, who under¬ 
took to make the hyena come out of her in its material 

The procedure is the same as the driving out of devils 
used to be among Greeks, Romans, Jews, and Christians. 
The incantations and mumbo-jumbo differ, but the essence 
of it is to make the body of the possessed person such an 
uncomfortable habitation that not even a devil or wild beast 
cares to remain in it . 1 Superstition is never completely logi¬ 
cal, even within its own false premises, and in the case of 
the demon-hyena they believe it will either abandon the body 
and try to escape, when it can be clubbed or shot down in 
its animal form—or that the human body itself will become 
magically transformed into the ravening beast, and must 
then be slain. 

The sour note that aroused Bercole’s suspicion concerning 
this surface version based on superstition was that the girl’s 
own sisters had helped in the procedure. As to what they 
had actually done to the unhappy girl Bercole had some 
details from the Yatanga which are too dreadful to write or 
print. They’d kept her in a cellar, and the sisters had worked 
on her in relays while the priests howled their incantations 
and exorcisms. All this, it seems, went on for the best part 
of a month, in the subterranean vault of one of their mud 
temples, and Sarab’na had become a demented creature, 
scarcely, indeed, human any more except in form, crawling 
on all fours, slavering, cowering, snarling at her tormentors 
—but the hyena refused to be driven out, nor did the girl’s 
form ever change. 

What threw it out of the field of superstitious persecution 

1 See Appendix, pp. 251-252. 



(which was bad enough) into the same crime-for-gain category 
as the recent witchcraft-arsenic murders was the fact, finally 
dug up and proved by Bercole and the Yatanga, that the girl’s 
jealous sisters, abetted by other relatives with an eye on the 
family succession, lands, and cattle, had bribed the priests to 
fake die omens; had cooked up the plot to get Sarab’na out of 
the way. She had been her father’s marked favourite and he 
had planned an early marriage for her, to a ‘ prince ’ of the 
Songhai, with half his holdings thrown in as a dowry. Because 
she was his favourite they hadn’t dared risk an ordinary mur¬ 
der, but had evolved the horrid plot which would put him 
in terror of Sarab’na and make him believe she was a menace 
to his own existence. 

When the unfortunate girl was completely demented they 
went to Sanou, invited him to see for himself, and what he 
saw was a whipped, starved, and tortured creature who went 
on all-fours, completely mad and ravening, who devoured 
chunks of raw meat when they were thrown to her. This con¬ 
vinced him so fully that they were easily able to obtain his 
acquiescence in their further plans. They persuaded him with 
childish logic that the reason they hadn’t been able to exorcize 
the hyena, to make it come out in its own form, was that it 
realized, shut up as they were in the cellar, that it would be 
cornered and killed the moment it showed itself. So, after fur¬ 
ther conference, Sanou agreed to let them take her out among 
the cliffs and try it in the open. 

What they did, of course, was simply to murder her out 
there, and throw the body in the river, which swarmed with 
crocodiles. And if they’d let it go at that it would have been 
just one of those things in Africa that no white man ever hears 
of. But the wily priests, who planned to go back and say that 
the girl herself had become a hyena and fled into the bush, 
had played their too smart trick with the earrings. They had 
trapped a young hyena alive, ‘ planted ’ the earrings, and 
turned it loose, on the long chance that sooner or later some¬ 
body might glimpse the marvel fleeting in the moonlight, 
might even kill it, as actually had chanced to happen, thus 
‘ proving ’ that the wretched girl had been a real demon-hyena; 
thus increasing the prestige of their priestly craft and magic. 
This is precisely what would have happened had the hyena 


been seen or shot by any superstitious native. The almost 
impossible long chance they had overlooked was that it might 
be bagged by a white man and carried to the administration. 
White hunters almost never shoot hyenas. The hyena is car¬ 
rion, and its hide is worthless. Nor could white men alone 
have ever got to the bottom of it and brought the priests and 
their accomplices to justice. Bercole had a long talk with 
Maillard about that. And it was agreed that it would be a 
mistake to try to make it stand up in a tribunal. Justice was 
left to the Yatanga Naba, who took a savage pleasure in seeing 
it was administered—in the savage fashion the savage crime 

Chapter VI 

The Caged White Werewolf 
of the Saraban 

HE last two times they brought her back to the planta- 

JL tion,” said the mahogany exporter, and he was speaking 
of his own wife, Marthe, whom he had married in Marseilles 
before coming to the Ivory Coast, “ her mouth [son museau , 
he called it, which properly means a wild beast’s snout] was 
smeared with blood.” 

He was begging Bercole and me to understand that he had 
done the only thing he could, and we were wondering what 
other solution could have been any better. 

No roads or regular safari trails led up into the Saraban, 
and no white Frenchman, not even Bercole, on whose district 
it abutted, had ever been up there officially until now. 

A lot of native rumours had kept seeping down to the coast, 
and Bercole, forced finally to investigate, had invited me to go 
along with him. He’d been in a bad humour about it, for if 
there is any one thing, other than sunstroke, that gives your 
seasoned African colonial a sharper pain in the neck than some¬ 
thing else, it is precisely any tale about mysterious white 
women gone jungle mad, or held prisoner and made to officiate 
as voodoo priestesses. They generally turn out to be there of 
their own free will, from one of the brothels behind the old 
port in Toulon, near the Senegalese barracks, or from the 
Kasbah at Algiers, where no colour lines are drawn—and sel¬ 
dom thank you for butting in on their new racket. 

If there was a white woman “ held captive ” in the Saraban 
Bercole had been sure it would be something in that cate¬ 
gory. Yet the queer rumours had persisted, and there were 
natives who swore they had been there—had seen with their 
own eyes. They said there was a man up there, on the banks 
of the Cavally, on the other side of the mountain, who kept 
a woman with long, straight hair in an iron cage, “ kai gaibou,” 


that is, “ like a panther ”—like a wild beast in an iron cage— 
and Dioula pedlars, who claimed to have actually seen the 
woman, swore she was a white European. 

Bercole had been long years in Africa. “ It could be,” he’d 
said to me, “ that this is a drawing, painting, or carving that 
has taken hold on the imagination of some isolated tribe back 
there. Their belief in animism, you see, means that nothing 
is ever necessarily what it seems. It could easily be a wooden 
image or an idol; it could even be some animal, or even a 
stone or a tree. When you live here in the jungle twenty years 
you begin to understand that what you first mistook for fan¬ 
tasy, or deliberate lying to mystify us whites, is often some¬ 
thing different and quite sincere. My Senegalese chauffeur, 
who served four years in France as a sergeant, who can take 
my motor to pieces and put it back again, who has a gramo¬ 
phone and can read Morse code, once took me to see his 
grandfather at Konakri. I’d said, 4 1 thought he was dead.’ 
The chauffeur said, ‘ No, he’s come back.’ So we went to see 
his grandfather at Konakri, and his grandfather was a goat! 
My Baoule housekeeper Ouia, who has more hard common 
sense, as you know, than nine-tenths of the white functionaries 
down in the Governor’s palace, keeps a sea shell which is her 
dead sister. Half the time, to them, a tree is not a tree. A 
broken monkey-wrench you’ve thrown away is a snake—or 
somebody’s cousin. And it’s more tangled even than that. It 
takes deeper twists no white man can follow. In those twists 
a man’s way of wearing a hat can be his grandfather, or a herd 
of elephants. So God knows what we’ll find, if anything, 
when we go up the river.” 

Next day, as Bercole’s lorry took us towards the mountain, 
he said, “ We’ll see no literal kai gaibou panther-woman in a 
cage—depend on that, but I’ll show you more baboons than 
you ever dreamed were in the world. We had a telescope 
trained on the mountain a couple of years ago when the chief 
surveyor was up from Bingerville, and'the rocks were swarm¬ 
ing with them, like maggots in a cheese.” 

We camped and slept at the base of the mountain, and left 
the lorry there next morning. We packed light, went afoot, 
with his cook, his boy, and six porters, and by late afternoon 
were up among the apes. The rock ridge lay like the grey 



carcass of a mile-long whale, emerging from the green jungle 
sea, and its clefts literally swarmed with baboons. It was a 
baboon metropolis. On some of the slopes they were as thick 
as flies. Bercole and his Negroes treated them like people. 
They were not afraid of us: quite harmless, so long as we 
remained polite to them—and so long as we were not afraid of 
them. They chattered with interest, but not in anger. Bercole 
said that if we killed or wounded one, or even threw stones 
at them, they’d mob us, submerge us, and tear us into little 

We camped next night on the further slope, above the 
Cavally, and in the morning a petty chief appeared, drawn 
by our smoke, with a dozen men armed with spears, to see who 
we were and what we wanted. They were Ouabe, like Bercole’s 
own porters. We went down with them, gave them three big 
salt bars and some tobacco. They found us a pirogue above the 
rapids, and manned it with paddlers. We went for three days 
up the river, with the Saraban on our right and the Liberian 
hinterland on our left. On the fourth day we came to a worked 
mahogany clearing, and soon to a plantation, in a lagoon, on 
the French side. Apart from its remoteness, it looked ordinary, 
commonplace. It could hardly be what we were looking for, 
yet the paddlers said it was. We tied up, and as we were un¬ 
loading the proprietor came down to the water. He was a surly 
but not stupid-looking fellow, brown-bearded, middle-aged—a 
Luxembourgeois, it turned out. Bercole always dressed shab¬ 
bily, without insignia, and the man, not knowing whom he had 
to deal with, made it plain he was not glad to see visitors. 
He offered us no welcome, and was surly. It was always a 
mistake to be surly with little Bercole. Bercole said in a sharp, 
clipped, official, nasal twang: 

“ So here you are, whoever you are, playing that old game 
in my territory I One foot in Liberia, the other in French terri¬ 
tory, cutting mahogany on both sides of the river, evading 
taxes, probably paying no concession. I am Bercole, you under¬ 
stand, Administrator-General of this district. . . 

“ I’m sorry,” said the proprietor. “ I could not know who 
you were. I am Joseph Hecht, formerly of Luxembourg and 
Marseilles. My papers are all on file. Monsieur l’Administra- 
teur, in Bingerville. I regret-” 


“ Hein ,” said Bercole, ** so that’s who you are.” 

“ I regret-” the man began again, when Bercole inter¬ 

rupted, this time deprecatingly, almost amiably. 

“ It wasn’t that, anyway. That wasn’t what I came up here 
to see you about. I came up here to put an end to a crazy and 
idiotic story the tribes are circulating. I hesitate to men¬ 
tion it.” 

“ How does it concern me? ” asked Joseph Hecht, and added, 
“ The tribes are making me no trouble.” 

“ They say,” blurted Bercole, “ that you keep women in 
cages! ” 

At this an extraordinary change came over the bearded 
man. His former aggressiveness dropped from him. It was 
not so much that he wilted. His face softened, rather, and with 
the softening was a sort of queer, bitter resignation. 

“ Ah, monsieur,” he said, " it is just as well that you came. 
I would have spared you the invitation, but I must beg you 
now to come to my house. For, you see, it is true. I keep my 
wife . . . yes ... I suppose cage would be the name for it. In 
this climate she would die if kept locked in a close room. 
And if I did not keep her confined, where she cannot break 
out nor others break in . . . Yes, monsieur, it is true. I keep 
my wife—in a cage.” 

Bercole is a difficult man to surprise, but his mouth had 
dropped, and he was staring at Hecht as if he thought the 
man was crazy, 

“No,” exclaimed the planter earnestly, “I am not mad, 
nor is my wife insane in any ordinary sense. I do not know 
what you believe about such things, but from time to time 
my wife becomes demoniac, possessed. She becomes a wild 
beast. The jungle madness got into her, and the witch-doctors 
themselves are afraid of her! If she had been one of their 
own they would have killed her. They have told me. The last 
two times they brought her back to the plantation her jaws 
were smeared with blood” 

“Mon dieu, mon dieu, mon dieul” said Bercole. We had 
reached the veranda. House boys brought bottles and refresh¬ 
ment. Bercole said, “ I have lived for twenty years in the 
jungle. I have heard of it happening to jungle women .. . but 
a white European ... I do not know what to think.” 



“ There are worse things in Europe than in any jungle,” said 
Hecht. “ Before I ever met my wife, before she dreamed that 
she would ever live in Africa, she had already become en¬ 

“ Entangled in what, in God’s name? ” asked Bercole, mut¬ 
tering more to himself than asking the direct question to 

“ I will try to tell you,” said the man. “ I want to tell you. 
She confessed it all to me in Marseilles, and wanted to get 
away from it; and it was one of the reasons we came to the 

Here, concisely, is what he told us, with the first evil roots 
back in the centre of civilized France. 

He had first met the girl in Valence, near Lyons, where she 
taught in the ecole normale. He had fallen in love with her— 
was still in love with her despite everything—and they had 
married. Honeymooning in Marseilles, she had become frigh¬ 
tened at seeing some one in the street who she believed had 
followed her down there, from Lyons. She had confessed what 
she was afraid of, and begged Hecht to take her out of the 
country. The “ Centre,” the Valley of the Rhone, has always 
been the stronghold of a deep, medieval religious mysticism, 
which has—as such medievalism always has—its demonology, 
black superstition, and weird cults growing out of them. One 
of these cults had pulled the girl in, and, taking advantage of 
her perverse, neurasthenic temperament, had made her an 
adept, an illuminee. She had participated in the sacrifice of 
animals, had drunk the sacramental blood, had lain naked on 
the altar, and had once or twice become possessed. In her 
usually normal state she feared and hated it, but they had 
her hooked, and didn’t want to let her go. It was to escape 
that she had married Hecht, and then persuaded him to take 
her thousands of miles away, to a new life. Like all the pro¬ 
vincial French who want to make a new start, they had natur¬ 
ally gone “ to the colonies.” 

All had gone well for a while, and then one night she had 
disappeared. Her bed was empty. The tom-toms had been 
throbbing all night down in the forest. Before Hecht could 
get a search organized the blacks themselves had brought her 
back, already a little afraid of her, but bowing down before 



her with reverence, and giving Hecht to understand they 
thought she was a sort of goddess. It was only later that he 
learned what had happened on that first night. They’d been 
holding an invocation of their jungle gods and demons, with 
the drums, masks, chants, and dances, when she suddenly 
appeared in the light of the torches, swayed, began screaming, 
tore off all her clothes, and rushed into their midst, galvanized, 
illumined, shrieking. The natives had thronged round her, 
throwing themselves at her feet so she could trample on them, 
howling “G’nouna! G’nouna! G’nouna! ” which is the femi¬ 
nine incarnation of Gla, the Great Demon of the forest. These 
topmost demons in their pantheon are worshipped as much as 
feared, are regarded as gods rather than devils, and rarely, as 
they believe, become incarnate. 

But again one night she was gone from her bed, and this 
time, when he found her, her mouth was smeared all over with 
blood. The natives were in utter terror. They told him it was 
the blood of a sheep. But they were so terrified he did not 
believe them. They were no longer worshipping her. She was 
one possessed, they said, with an evil spirit. A third, more de¬ 
finitely horrible thing had happened soon afterwards, and then 
the witch-doctors had solemnly come to tell him that his wife 
was kai gaibou, possessed by the spirit of a panther. 

So the husband, who had made previous unsuccessful efforts 
to prevent her from slipping away when the jungle mad¬ 
ness came upon her, had contrived the cage to bar her in, 
to make running away by night or day impossible, to protect 
her against herself, as he said—from her own madness. 
She was as sane as anybody, he said, between these awful 

Yes, he said, the cage was here in the compound. It was a 
part of the house, really, built on as a sort of wing. We would 
go there now, and Monsieur the Administrator would do what¬ 
ever he judged wisest. 

So we went, no longer antagonistic towards the man, filled 
more with embarrassment and pity than with any morbid curi¬ 
osity. And there it was, just as the Dioula pedlars had said— 
the white Frenchwoman locked in an iron cage, kai gaibou , 
like a panther, like a wild beast in the zoo. As for the cage 
itself, it was roofed, comfortable, clean, and large as a room, 




built sheltered against the bungalow, with mats on the clay 
floor, a divan in one corner piled with cushions, and in another 
corner a shower with toilet arrangements—the same Hecht 
had for himself in the main house. 

As for the woman who came forward to the bars, sullen but 
less embarrassed than we were, wrapped in a silk pagne twisted 
round her body in the Arab manner, inhaling deeply the 
smoke from a cigarette, she was a heavy, dark-complexioned, 
coarsely handsome creature, sensual rather than beautiful, de¬ 
finitely volcanic, neurasthenic. I wondered whether she had 
ever really been a school-teacher—whether she hadn’t been in 
an older and commoner profession before her marriage. 

“ My wife, Marthe,” said the planter, making the weird in¬ 
troductions. She stared at us, almost insolently, and the con¬ 
versation, as the French say, refused to begin. It was damn¬ 
ably embarrassing. Bercole sought refuge in the strictest offi¬ 
cial formality. 

“ Madame, I am the Administrator-General, with full police 
authority in this district. I have men with me. I have heard 
what this man here has recounted. I take note of what I 
see in the presence of this gentleman as a witness. I take note, 
and I am ready to act. Do you make complaint against this 
man who says he is Joseph Hecht, and says he is your husband? 
Are you held here against your will? Do you wish to be re¬ 
leased first, and then charge him? ” 

The woman inhaled again deeply and stared at Bercole. 

“ He is my husband,” she said, and stopped, and then went 
on. “ I have nothing to say, and no complaint or charge to 
make. You’d better talk with him about it.” 

“ As you wish, madame,” said Bercole, saluting punctili¬ 

We were half-way down to the rapids next day, sliding 
with the current, in the pirogue, when Bercole said: 

“ It looked crazy, but it wasn’t a stupid idea, you know. 
She’s better off, probably, than in an insane asylum. And I 
don’t believe she could be judged insane anyway. Apparently 
she’s not, except for that blood lust which sends her off at in¬ 
tervals. Maybe she is bewitched, ensorcelee. I don’t know what 
I believe about sorcery, but there’s one thing I do know about 


it. No magic, my friend, can twist or break an iron bar. Maybe 
Hecht has not been stupid. But if she were my woman, assum¬ 
ing everything he told us is true, I give you my word of honour, 
Ed shoot her through the head and believe I’d done the right 
and moral thing about it.” 

Chapter VII 

Werewolf in Washington Square 

I N esoteric lore and old theology the difference between 
black magic and white magic is that Satan and his devils 
help you with the first, while the Lord Jesus, saints, and bright 
pure spirits, including that of your dead aunt from Hawkins- 
ville, Georgia, help you with the second. 

In applied witchcraft and applied occultism to-day the only 
difference between black and white is in the intention. If 
you’re doing it for evil it’s black; if you’re doing it for good 
it is white. All magic, whether white or black, is dangerous— 
and there are sometimes lamentable kick-backs. 

Treating patients with ultra-violet rays or radium is danger¬ 
ous too. And so are strychnine pills. Unless the doctors know 
their stuff, somebody, occasionally both the doctor and the 
patient, gets burned or poisoned. It’s the same in occultism and 
white magic. Even when it’s ‘ only a game,’ like table-tipping 
or the Ouija board, it can take dangerous turns, and when you 
get deeper into it—into the Yi King , say—it can sink you. 

The Yi King , oldest of all books on divination and magic, 
was written in China long before Confucius, and long before 
dialectic theology was invented. It is neither black nor white. 
It is magic, tout court , and I was employing it, with friends 
from Columbia and Cornell, neither for good nor for evil, but 
out of sheer curiosity to see how far we could make the cat 
jump—if we could make it jump at all. The cat remained 
poised and indifferent, but the experiments had various violent 
effects on the two-legged professors, and on other human beings 
whom we persuaded to shuffle the tortoiseshell wands. In the 
end I realized again, belatedly, that magic is a thing you’d 
better let alone unless you have the protection of a pure and 
guileless heart like Parsifal’s. My heart was far from pure, 
and I’d have materialized Lucifer himself, if I could, as readily 
as any of the unfallen archangels. But my experiments in 

reverse-orthodox, pentagrammed diabolism had never materi- 



alizecl anything. And I’d gone on to the Yi King to see what 
poltergeist high jinks it might uncork, if any. 

The adventure I propose to relate occurred in John Thomp¬ 
son’s studio in the summer of 1923. He kept himself out of 
the newspapers, but had a curious word-of-mouth reputation 
which was international. Some people considered him the 
greatest living secret master of esoteric mysticism and magic; 
others insisted he was no more than a crackbrained charlatan. 
At any rate, he had a small private fortune, and never founded 
cults or exploited his hobby commercially. I knew him inti¬ 
mately, and wavered between two opinions. 

Our active monkey business with the Yi King (pronounced, 
by the way, * Yee Ching’) dated back to 1922, when we had 
chanced to find and buy the first actual set of wands I’d ever 
seen. We’d been playing chess one afternoon at Mouquin’s, 
and later in the afternoon were strolling up Fifth Avenue when 
something in the window of a Chinese curio shop caught our 
eye. It was the shop on the east side of the Avenue, above the 
old Brentano’s, around 29th Street. We went inside, and the 
assistant took from the window a little bundle of flat, dark- 
coloured tortoiseshell wands, fastened together with a bit of 
string. There were six, and they were all identical. Each was 
about the size and shape of an ordinary foot-rule, slightly 
smaller. One face of each was blank, and the reverse face of 
each was cut crosswise in two with an inch-wide strip of inlaid 
white ivory. We recognized them immediately for what they 
were, but Thompson said casually to the Chinese assistant: 

“ Do you happen to know what they are? ” 

The assistant shook his head. “ One game like fan-tan 
maybe. Maybe he part lost. If you not know you not buy.” 

We bought them at a reasonable price, took them down to 
Thompson’s studio, got the books out. We had the translation 
by Professor James Legge, of Oxford, published by the Claren¬ 
don Press, among the Sacred Books of the East, edited by 
F. Max Muller. Also a volume in French, by Harlez, of the 
Royal Belgian Academy, and a German treatise which I could 
not read. 

The wands themselves are supposed to be the key to the 
great book. When shuffled and tossed in the air so that they 
fall, each heads or tails, as it were, they are laid parallel 


and will form one of sixty-four varieties of the mystical 

Here they are. The ringed one, No. 49, the ko hexagram, 
is the one that got us into trouble. We should have been 
warned by Confucius, who said, “ If some years were added to 
my life I would give fifty to the study of the Yi, and might 
even then fall into grievous errors.” 

In addition to being the key to the book, the wands were 
also supposed to open other magic doors through which the 
spirit could stroll into the past or future, walk through walls, 
across the ocean, over mountains, to heaven, hell, or Hono¬ 
lulu—depending on which hexagram you tossed. To “ send 
your soul into the infinite ” you shake and toss your tortoise¬ 
shells like poker dice, then arrange the wands parallel, and 
fix the resulting hexagram firmly in your visual memory. 
Next you must visualize an imaginary closed door with this 
symbol painted on it. All you know about the imaginary door 
is that, if it swings open at all, it will open away from you 
—as if pushed. Next you kneel, or sit cross-legged like a 
Buddha, or squat on your haunches, if you choose, like a 
Chinese bandit waiting for his head to be cut off. You try to 
make your mind a blank, simply staring in imagination at the 
door and at the symbol. You do it either in the dark or blind¬ 
folded or simply with your eyes closed, if you have the will¬ 
power to keep them closed for what may be a long time. 

After a while, maybe in half an hour, maybe in seven or 
eight hours, maybe not at all in any single given trial, the 
door will seem to swing slowly open. Then, in your imagina¬ 
tion, you go through it. You don’t merely look through it. 
You go through it, in your imagination. You “ arise out of 
your body,” as the book says, and “ walk through the door.” 
What you see, encounter, and experience on the other side is 
believed by the esoteric to be seen by the soul’s eye—to be 
experienced by the astral body. 

I believe soul’s eyes and astral bodies are boloney, and that 
here is again merely another—if one of the oldest and most 
complicated—methods of rapping at the door of your own 
subconscious. But it certainly bangs on that sometimes, like 
a hammer on a brazen gong. Whatever bell it rings, it rings 



i 3 , 6 

it. Some of the university professors were amiably interested 
in our experiments, and I shall never forget the night when 
Morris Bishop, of Cornell, went through the door to become 
a monk in the old Abbey of Solesmes, and chanted pure Gre¬ 
gorian in the old Latin. It was no proof of the reincarna¬ 
tion tommy-rot, because he was a Latin scholar (which is the 
crux generally left out of such recounted episodes), and had 
sung Gregorian plain chant long before he started writing 
Limericks after Lear. My own unhappy adventures beyond 
the door consisted always in seeking something I could never 
find, and are consequently not worth mentioning. What hap¬ 
pened to various others beyond the door was often dull, but 
sometimes astonishing, and not always entirely respectable. 
There was one memorable night when a chubby professor of 
Greek from Columbia—who in his state of normal conscious¬ 
ness disbelieves in one sort of fairies and heartily dislikes the 
other sort—became a wanton young female corybant. 

In the hair-raising adventure we had at the last with 
Nastatia Filipovna there was a disturbing element of coinci¬ 
dence—absent in the Greek professor’s case—between the 
transformation she experienced and the esoteric meaning of 
the particular hexagram she was concentrating upon. I’m not 
trying, however, to argue opposite points of view. It is true 
that she had tossed the ko hexagram by pure chance, and knew 
nothing of its special significance—but despite that fact, which 
is of the sort the esoterists love to harp upon until the cows 
come home, I stand solidly on the side of those who believe 
that such coincidences, no matter how sensational, are never 
anything but—sheer, gratuitous coincidences. The Chinese 

ideograph for ko is . Both Harlez and Professor Legge 

translate it as meaning: “ Skin; hide; fur; leather; also, to skin; 
to flay. Also, figuratively, to undergo change; to be made 
different.” Among the magical properties ascribed to ko in the 
Yi King, quoting from the Legge translation, are these: 

The common man may change his face; the sage may 
change his whole being as does the leopard. 

Two sisters may live together in the same skin, differing and 
opposed, yet the same. 


The great sage may change himself as the tiger changes its 
form and stripes. 

I had known Nastatia Filipovna in the days just after the 
World War. She was a Russian refugee who had dropped her 
title, had come to New York, had gone through the usual 
vicissitudes, then married a Cleveland manufacturer, and 
dropped out of sight. I’d heard nothing from her for a number 
of years when there came one morning in my local post, 
scrawled in an imperious yet childish hand, a note from the 
St Regis. It said, “ Take me to eat lobsters. And bring me 
that Thompson of yours if you can find him/’ 

I ’phoned Thompson, and we took her to luncheon. He had 
met her in the old days, when she was singing with Balieff, 
and she wasn’t the sort one easily forgets. I suppose * violent ’ 
would be as good a single descriptive adjective as any, and 
I’m inclined to believe that her physiological savagery, perhaps 
as much as her psychology and temperament, bad a bearing 
on the course things took when her atavistic passions were un¬ 
leashed. Nastatia was an aristocrat—and a savage. She was 
far too handsome in an animal sort of way to be in good taste 
in civilized, bourgeois Anglo-Saxon society. All her physical 
traits, though superb, were exaggerated. She was tall, narrow- 
waisted, full-breasted, had coarse but beautiful brown hair. 
Her tawny, brown-flecked eyes were enormous and wide-set 
under a powerful but low forehead. She had a large nose, and 
a big, full-curved mouth with teeth that flashed magnificently 
when she smiled, but became ugly when she lost her temper. 
As for her manners, they were those of an eccentric grand 
duchess, or a savage, depending on how you choose to differen¬ 

At luncheon she told us of some experiences she’d been 
having. That was why she wanted to see Thompson. She’d 
known Rasputin, had dabbled in occultism, and had found a 
Russian fortune-teller in Cleveland who had initiated her into 
crystal gazing. She had begun to be able to go into self-induced 
trances, but hated everything that happened to her in the 
trances. To begin with, she didn’t like Cleveland, she didn’t 
like her husband, she didn’t like America. Trance stuff and 
the occult are escape mechanisms, just as drugs and liquor 
are. She didn’t like reality. But she didn’t like what she’d 


met with in the crystal-ball illusion world of unreality either! 
She kept “ sliding across,’’ she said, into a camp of Mongols, 
where she herself, with some other women, was engaged in 
cutting up the carcass of a bear with a stone knife. 

In these trance experiences she suffered cold, discomfort, 
brutal treatment. She hated the “ hard work,” the “ dirty 
skins” she wore, the smells, the “burned food.” And the worst 
of it was that now, every time she sent herself across, she kept 
sliding back to that brutal life. She talked in commonplace, 
petulant terms, as if complaining about having to live in one 
sort of house when she wanted to live in another. “ I don’t 
want to live in Cleveland, but I don’t want to sleep in caves 
either, and be clubbed about by cave men! ” she protested, as 
if we were to blame for it. 

“ It’s jolly well good for you, you know,” said Thompson. 
“ Clubbing is what you need, and I hope every time you go 
back there they beat you black and blue. But, speaking seri¬ 
ously, my dear, I’d give my eye-teeth for a real throwback of 
that sort, if it’s real. They are extremely rare. I don’t suppose 
you’ve thought to make notes or check your experiences 
against what is actually known of cave life? You don’t know 
what this stuff of yours may tap! ” 

Thompson was off on his hobby. 

“ It’s stupendous, if it’s real! If you weren’t so selfish you’d 
realize it. But no, you want your castle in the Caucasus. Or 
you want to be Catherine the Great. And you think I’ll help 
you do that, my dear? Well, I won’t. But I’d love to help you 
in the other direction—farther and farther back.” 

Nastatia flew into a rage. “ Of course! ” she retorted angrily. 
“ You have always been a filthy swine. I come to you unhappy, 
and all you think about is your own rotten experiments. You 
ought to know that I won’t be anybody’s Trilby. To hell with 
you! I am not interested in adding to other people’s know¬ 
ledge. I am interested in myself.” 

“ Come, Nastatia,” Thompson protested, “ don’t lose your 
temper. I apologize. You’ll never be anybody’s Trilby. But 
if you want to try a different door from the one you’ve been 
using . . .” 

We told her all we knew about the Yi King, and of course 
she wanted to try it. So we invited her down that same night 



to Thompson’s vast apartment-studio, hung with crimson 
curtains and black draperies, stinking with incense, cluttered 
with Tibetan idols, Hindu Durgas, prayer wheels, gongs, 
demon masks, and magical gimcracks from every corner of 
the globe. What we were doing was in one sense as com¬ 
pletely respectable as the Sunday evening table-tippings my 
aunt used to participate in with other credulous members of 
the Methodist Ladies’ Aid Society. There’s no more intrinsic 
evil in the Yi King than in a Ouija board. And we had in 
the party a thoroughly decent young British vice-consul who 
had spent a lot of time in the Orient and whose interest 
in these matters was as honest as that of my friends at 
Columbia. Yet what we were doing now was dangerous, as 
it turned out. Nastatia was a neurasthenic, hyper-imaginative 
type, already addicted to occult escape mechanisms. 

On the night the thing happened she had been kneeling 
for a couple of hours on the floor in the centre of Thompson’s 
crimson-draped studio, her eyes closed, in semi-darkness. 
The three of us sat quietly waiting to see whether the door 
would open for her or not. She said petulantly, “ My knees 
hurt. I am getting numb.” She presently groaned, let her legs 
slump, and was on her haunches, sitting on her heels, but with 
her body still upright. Her head sagged, and after another full 
hour had passed in silence we wondered whether she had gone 
to sleep. Then she said: 

“ The door is moving. The door is opening. But it’s opening 
into the outdoors! I supposed it would open into another 
room. It’s beautiful out there ... and, yes, I’m going. 

“ Snow... everything’s white... everywhere snow,” she kept 
murmuring, “ and the moon . . . the moon on the white snow 
... and black trees over there against the sky. Yes, I’m outside 
now, I am lying in the snow . . . pressed against the snow.. . . 
I am not cold. I am wearing a fur coat. I am lying naked in 
a fur coat . . . and I am warm in the snow . . . flat with my 
belly and chin on the snow I lie. It is good to lie warm in the 
snow. ...” 

“ Do you get what it’s about? ” I whispered to Thompson. 

“ Not the faintest idea,” he replied. “ Do you? ” 

Nastatia was talking again, and, quite apart from its trance¬ 
like dreaminess, her voice sounded puzzled too: “ I am moving 



now, but I am not walking. I am crawling on my hands and 
knees. Why am I crawling? . . . But I’m not crawling now, 
I’m running—on my hands and feet, lightly . . . now! now! 
now! . . . I’m running lightly like the wind. . . . How good the 
snow smells! I have never smelled the snow before. And 
there’s another good smell. Ah! Ah! Faster . . . faster . . . 
faster. . ..” 

She was breathing heavily, panting. Her big handsome 
mouth was open, drooling. And when she next broke the 
silence it was with sounds that were not human. There were 
yelps, slavering, panting, and then a deep baying such as only 
two sorts of animals on earth emit when they are running- 
hounds and wolves. 

“My God! ” whispered Thompson. “She’s turning into 
one, there on the floor! Her face is changing! See! ” 

“ You silly ass,” said the vice-consul sharply, “ she always 
had that face—big teeth—pointed nose.” He snapped on the 
lamp nearest him. No horrid physical miracle was occurring, 
but it was bad enough and ugly enough without that. Nastatia 
had always had a predatory, vulpine face, as many humans 
have, and now it was horrible. He went over to where she 
crouched, took her by the hand, slapped her smartly on both 
cheeks, and cried, “ Come out of it, Nastatia! Wake up! It’s 
all right. Wake up! You’ve been dreaming.” 

The girl snarled hideously, her eyes wide open now, and 
leaped for his throat. She would have torn his throat with 
her teeth if the long-crouched position had not numbed her so 
that she lurched and fell heavily. And now, literally on all- 
fours and crawling, she slithered, still snarling, into the dark 
shadows of the corner. We had the lights on, snared her in 
big blankets, wrapped her tight as she struggled like a maniac, 
put ammonia under her nose, and she came out of it. 

We helped her to a couch. We brought a towel and a basin. 
We didn’t talk much. We brought her brandy. In a few min¬ 
utes she made us find her handbag with powder and make-up. 
She went into the bathroom. She came out and sank into an 
armchair and lighted a cigarette, and then said, “ What time 
is it? ” 

Presently she yawned, and said, “ I’m hungry.” 

It was about two o’clock. She lighted another cigarette. We 


found a taxi and went over to Siegel's place under the Sixth 
Avenue ‘ L ’ for sandwiches and coffee. 

A week passed, and then she telephoned that she wanted to 
try it again. 

She remembered what had happened—and she liked it! 

She told me that as a tiny child she had seen wolves coursing 
over moonlit snow in Russia, had thought it beautiful, and 
wished with all her passionate baby soul to run with them. 
It was a nice rationalization, but if the thing had happened 
a few centuries before, in the full flower of Inquisitorial super¬ 
stition—and had become known—we might all have been 
thrown in the bonfire for it. 


Part Three 


Chapter I 

Presentation of an Open Question, 
to which a Negative Answer may 
not be the Final Word 

T HE veil of the supernatural which once shrouded witch¬ 
craft and black magic has been pierced from many angles. 
The veil of the supposedly supernormal, however, still 
shrouds more than one deep mystery. Those who believe we 
have pierced it a little, and are convinced by what we have 
seen that there is nothing supernormal behind it, may not 
have pierced the holes deep enough, or may not have poked 
them in the right places. Those who believe they have pierced 
it deeper and glimpsed authentic phenomena which can only 
be explained in terms of the supernormal may have seen dis¬ 
torted images or may have interpreted them wrongly. By the 
supernormal, in this context, I mean anything which occurs 
contrary to the fixed, known laws of time-space, the fixed, 
known rules of logic, or endows its supposed possessor with 
senses and powers outside those laws and rules as known up 
to now. It is ‘ supernormal/ of course, in a different context, 
for a man to play perfect blindfold chess, or add six-column 
sums by lightning calculation at a glance. But I am dealing 
only with the first connotation in this book. 

The veil of the supernormal cloaks witchcraft, telepathy, 
clairvoyance, occultism, mystical excursions into the past and 
future—only incidentally. It is indeed the veil which shrouds 
all life in mystery. 1 Religion has sought to illuminate the 
shadows by the light of faith, and philosophy has sought to do 
the same thing by the light of reason. The two lights have 
somewhat neutralized each other, I happen to stand with 
those who believe that life—including witchcraft incidentally, 
and including also all phenomena of the so-called supernormal 


1 See Appendix, pp. 253-255. 



—can be interpreted in terms of reason. I believe that seers, 
mystics, clairvoyants, telepathists, spiritualists, readers of the 
future, fakirs, Yogis, and dervishes , 1 whether in cells, seances, 
or laboratories, can reveal nothing beyond what has first 
entered their consciousness through the channels of the five 
normal senses, and has subsequently been churned over, sifted, 
reshuffled, trance-emotionalized, and frequently distorted by 
their own unconscious and subconscious minds . 2 God knows 
they produce plenty of authentic abnormal* psychic ’ pheno- 

1 Most of our progress from ape, to cave, to man, has been built on sen¬ 
sory foundations. In the world of mysticism there have been exceptions 
such as Jesus Christ, Gautama Buddha, Lao-tse—and possibly Mahatma 
Gandhi in our time. But the average Oriental swami is as inferior to the 
average Rotarian, in power, brains, intelligence, harmonious adjustment 
to life, co-ordination, and capacity for active happiness as the barnacle 
is inferior to the baboon. The average dervish or Yogi, squatting immo¬ 
bile for a year, or for a thousand years, in his lotus posture, with his heel 
stuck in his anus, is as inferior to the average American business-man on 
his hurried commercial-airline-flagship way to a Chicago convention as is a 
bullfrog on a lily pad to Nicholas Murray Butler. If you prefer a bullfrog 
on a lily pad to Nicholas Murray Butler you are a mystic. I don’t know 
whether I am a mystic or not. 

2 The term ‘ unconscious ' or ‘ subconscious ' is interpreted differently 
by different schools of psychology. All admit that the human mind, and ani¬ 
mal mind too, consists of something more than the conscious experience of 
the present moment. And all admit this something more contains at least 
the framework of instincts or inborn drives and the system of memories 
or residues of past experience. Each momentary sensation resulting from 
an external stimulus derives its ‘ fringe ' of primary and secondary mean¬ 
ing and its capacity for significant and intelligent reaction from the 
pre-existing or unconscious part of the mind. It is agreed to be mainly 
responsible for ordinary dreams and for creative imagination. But when 
you turn from a consideration of the functions or effects of the unconscious 
to a consideration of its intrinsic nature, you enter the arena of a free- 
for-all dogfight—a scrambling and scrambled conflict of not always amiably 
diverging opinions. At one extreme are the behaviourists, who insist that 
the unconscious or subconscious is only a somewhat misleading name for 
that part of the brain structure consisting of association or conduction 
paths produced by previous experience; and that as such it is purely 
physiological, with nothing mental or psychical about it. At the other 
extreme are the psychological mysticists, following the late William 
James, who regard the unconscious mind as a sort of entity similar to the 
conscious mind, but vaster in extent, a great sea of fears, hopes, desires, 
and thoughts more or less insulated from the conscious mind, but more 
or less united to the ‘ cosmic mind ’ and endowed with metaphysical 
powers, from which might derive telepathy, clairvoyance, prophecy, etc. 
Between the materialistic view of the behaviourists and the ‘ idealistic ’ 
view of the mysticists there are a number of intermediate positions. I am 
not committed to, or meaning to defend, any of these positions, whether 
intermediate or extreme. I am using the term ‘ unconscious ’ or ‘ sub¬ 
conscious ’ merely to designate tentatively, and in its purely functional 
sense, any capacity or power or manifestation that would seem by its charac¬ 
ter to* be a product of the individual’s mind, but not of his conscious mind, 
in the sense that the term conscious is generally accepted. 



mena, sometimes physical phenomena—faintings and fits, con¬ 
vulsions, catalepsy, rigidity, glazed eyes, hypnotic trances. Eve 
even seen them froth at the mouth. A lot of them are abso¬ 
lutely sincere. They cannot know—even if rationalists are 
right about it—that what froths up must be derived from their 
own subconscious—no matter how beautiful it may be as in 
the cases of certain epileptic saints; or how wicked and 
abominable, as in the case of certain esoteric sinners. 

All hard-boiled rationalists felt that way about it—and felt 
they had a right to feel that way about it—up to and through 
the beginning of this twentieth century, while the phenomena 
were still confined to monastic cells, spiritualist prayer meet¬ 
ings, fortune-tellers’ booths, and mediumistic seances ; and 
while such ‘ scientific ’ investigations as went on were confined 
mostly to cranks on the one side who wanted to be convinced 
by the swamis and mediums, and on the other side to honest 
debunkers like the late Houdini. Such unprejudiced indivi¬ 
duals and organizations as really investigated it—including 
the Scientific American and Houdini—got negative results and 
publicly exposed a lot of fraud and charlatanry. 

The picture has somewhat changed, however, within recent 
years. A basic phase of this subject, along with its supposed 
phenomena, has been rescued by Professor J. B. Rhine, of Duke 
University, Gardner Murphy, of Columbia, the late William 
McDougall, of Oxford, Harvard, and Duke, from the half¬ 
world of Indian guides, tipping tables, tambourines, and trum¬ 
pets, and been lifted for purposes of prolonged and honest 
study into the completely respectable world of the scientific 
laboratories and scientific examination in many of the big 
universities. I don’t believe they have yet proved anything 
conclusive , 1 or that they will, by their present methods. But I 
can be wrong about that—and, whether I’m right or wrong, 
the whole thing has become, for the first time in the world’s 
history, a scientific problem, scientifically stated, with an 
honest solution being honestly sought for. 

In less orthodox ways, and with no possibility of laboratory 
control, the investigation of these same phenomena has been 
a part of my lifelong obsession in witchcraft and magic. If 

1 See Appendix, pp. 255-258. 



the orthodox laboratory research gentlemen have a justifiable 
contempt for the sort of hot and sweating, rough, occasionally 
dangerous ploughing Fve been doing in this field of the sup¬ 
posedly supernormal, I must admit to having a slight recipro- 
catory contempt for their unheated, surface scratching, which 
has broken no deep earth up to now—for their efforts to prove 
or disprove something in so deep and emotionally fox-fire¬ 
glimmering a swamp field with cold little packs of cards, 
guessing games, and adding machines. I don’t think they’ve 
yet taken off their gloves and grabbed the dragon firmly by the 
tail—if there is any dragon. 

Whatever there is to it, if only illusions, delusions of coinci¬ 
dence, in which you and some millions of others have remem¬ 
bered the one time you had a premonition that Aunt Sally 
would be run over by a lorry or Uncle Charlie drowned at sea 
(and she was run over or he was drowned), but have forgotten 
the equally strong premonitions you have had when nothing 
subsequently happened—these supposed telepathic, extra¬ 
sensory flashes that did pan out almost always occur when you 
are consciously or unconsciously under some worry, stress, or 
strain; sometimes mental, sometimes physical, sometimes 
both. Real and provable or not—they almost never occur 
‘ cold.’ They almost never occur to people who are indifferent, 
whose emotional condition prior to their occurrence is calm, 
cowlike, normal. 

I think Rhine and his associates have handicapped them¬ 
selves by the utter calmness which prevails in the extra-sensory 
excursion trips on which they conduct calm, unworried excur¬ 
sionists by the hundreds of thousands in calm and full pos¬ 
session of their five ordinary, normal senses. If there is such 
a thing as extra-sensory perception I don’t think they'll ever 
awaken it to startling, positive performance in that way. 

If there is such latent power I think it’s much more likely 
to be stirred up by such experiments as the swamis, mystics, 
yogi, engage in—prolonged sleeplessness, fasting, numbness, 
anaesthesia—anything not too dangerous that may short- 
circuit or lull to abeyance the five normal senses and leave the 
door wider open for extra-sensory phenomena (if any) to kick 
through. And I go the whole hog on it. 

That’s how the long-kneeling adept of the Yi King taps on 


H 9 

the door. Hindu fakirs lie on beds of nails or stare into the 
sun until they go blind. The Arab Rufiah, a sect of Moslem 
mystics allied with the Melewi, hang themselves up by one 
wrist and dangle like bats in the darkness for hours until they 
go into a trance, or faint. The Eskimo witch-doctors described 
by Peter Freuchen have themselves tightly bound with thongs, 
and go into their trances only after the long-cramped posture 
has worn out and dulled their normal senses. The more 
civilized Melewi, the most cultured mystic sect of Islam, whirl 
until they’re dizzy. The completely civilized mystical man¬ 
darin sits cross-legged, bends his head down over his fat belly, 
and stares at his own navel. They’re all the same thing really. 
If you have the will-power to sit motionless for eighteen hours 
or so, in an ordinary chair, keeping your mind as open and 
empty as possible, and stare fixedly at the point of a lead 
pencil you’ll end by having all sorts of exciting, sometimes 
beautifiil and sometimes terrifying, * revelations ’—even 
though they’re nothing but illusions. 

If, as I suspect, these revelations, messages, experiences, in 
telepathy, clairvoyance, spiritual vision, are never extra¬ 
sensory or supernormal, but merely well up from the depths 
of the experimenters’ released subconscious, they can be, 
nevertheless, violently exciting, and have been known to pro¬ 
duce (as a sort of by-product) sublime masterpieces in poetry, 
religious and mystical prose, etc. 

If anything more important * comes out ’ it’s more likely 
to come by hammering at the door, by breaking the door open, 
if there is such a door, than by discreet, cold tapping, followed 
by the insertion through an imaginary crack of a spook visiting 
card printed with stars and circles. If and when the door does 
open the subject is sure to see more clearly with his extra¬ 
sensory vision when he has baggage-checked his normal five 
senses in the waiting-room outside. 

Dr Rhine’s technique in seeking to ‘ baggage-check ’ the 
normal senses is for his subjects to be calm, at ease, relaxed, 
comfortable, both physically and mentally—the body com¬ 
pletely calm and the mind as calm and empty as possible. Cats, 
dogs, saints, cows, savages, primitives, old ladies in rocking 
chairs in the country, can do this, but it’s next to impossible 
for most of us. It’s easier in a way than bending over and 



staring at your navel till your neck is numb and your brain 
empty or dreamy—but in another way it’s harder. ‘ Blanking ’ 
the mind so that anything can come into it is the one thing 
nearly all of us are desperately afraid of and incessantly 
struggling against. Hence crossword puzzles, anagrams, con¬ 
tract bridge, knitting, reading. We have to be at something 
every waking instant, if it’s only mechanically reading the 
label on a tube of toothpaste ... for fear .. . 

Dr Rhine’s results seem to show that his subjects seem to 
do less well when they’re tired. My guess about that, and I 
think it’s a shrewd guess, is that they simply don’t get tired 
enough. All five of their normal senses are still functioning 
normally. Their minds cannot be completely blank of sensory 
things. Yet it has always seemed to me the simplest sort of 
common sense that a vital step towards extra-sensory percep¬ 
tion consists in breaking as far as possible—or at least wearing 
thin—the connexion with the five ordinary senses, to which 
we are normally completely slaves. 

Rhine and the E.S.P. investigators, it seems to me, are un¬ 
dertaking to do with telepathy, clairvoyance, and what was 
once 4 spook ’ stuff the same job that chemistry and physics 
did with alchemy—but with one perhaps important oversight. 
Just as the chemists and physicists lifted the search for the 
elixir of life, the philosopher’s stone, the transmutation of lead 
into gold, from the dark hell’s cauldron of the alchemist, who 
was a magician and sorcerer, into the clean test tubes and cru¬ 
cibles of the scientific laboratory—so Rhine and his associates 
have lifted the search for supernormal, extra-sensory vision out 
of the dark, veiled atmosphere of the modern, mediumistic 
witches’ caves of Endor, with their trumpets, tambourines, 
‘ Indian guides,’ and phony ectoplasm, into the clear light of 
controlled psychological laboratory experiment. 

But they might learn something by remembering that the 
same hot fires burn beneath the crucibles of science as burned 
beneath the cauldron of the alchemist. The cauldron still boils 
and seethes in chemistry. The night skies over Bethlehem 
and Pittsburgh glow with as red a light as ever did the night 
skies over cave and forest when the old alchemists tossed in 
the fat of toads, bat’s blood, and sometimes a murdered baby 
to make the lead turn into gold. Physical sciences abandoned 


the crazy superstitions, but still turn on the heat. Rhine and 
his associates light no fires. They never turn on the heat. 
Their mental test tubes are always cold. 

It is true that chemistry, with even hotter crucibles than 
the magicians had, has never been able to turn lead into gold 
or find the elixir of life—but it has turned pitchblende into 
radium and found vitamins. 

Now Rhine—even if he turned on more stress, strain, 
warmth, more mental and emotional excitement, more psy¬ 
chological and mental heat than the Greeks once did in their 
wild orgies around the oracles of Delphi and Dodona, or in 
the Mysteries of Eleusis, or Ezekiel when he prophesied and 
saw the wheel, or the great St Theresa in her long ecstasies— 
might never in my opinion turn the dross of mediumistic 
buncombe into pure telepathy or pure clairvoyance; but if he 
warmed things up and kept the fires controlled he might dis¬ 
cover and learn more about whatever latent mental, psychic 
powers now lie dormant and unused in the Western world. 

The late William James, probing the same problems as 
Rhine’s, but from a different angle, experimenting with the 
“ mystical vision ” and the “ anaesthetic revelation,” turned on 
the heat in Harvard, experimented with loss of sleep, with 
ether, laughing gas, fatigue, strain, hashish, analonium. He 
uncorked experiences more baffling and exciting than have the 
present-day extra-sensory laboratories, but was never able to 
persuade himself that they came from any other source than 
the subconscious, or that they ever contained any elements 
that postulated extra-sensory perception or clairvoyant power. 

This supernormal stuff is all in the same bag, you know, 
whether you split it into telepathy, clairvoyance, mystical 
vision, fourth-dimensional excursions, or the metaphysical 
corollaries of the Einstein theory in which space if not time 
curves round and back on itself like a serpent swallowing its 
tail. Dr Rhine is not merely experimenting, you know, with 
telepathy and clairvoyance confined to the immediate instant, 
to the ‘ nick ’ of time. He is experimenting also with precogni¬ 
tion, previsionary clairvoyance, seeing into the future. Also 
with retrocognition—that is, seeing back into the past clair- 

If and when laboratory people produce anything as worth 


i 5 2 

recording, as lasting and exciting, as have the world’s great 
white magicians, prophets, sages, seers, and mystics, only then 
will I believe their cold test tubes constitute as good a method 
as the red-hot, fire-illumined crucible. 

If and when either Rhine or the Grand Lama of Tibet, 
working cold or hot, produces one individual authentically 
possessed of telepathic or clairvoyant power, and capable of 
really using it, I will then believe that it exists, as an extra¬ 
sensory power, outside normal consciousness—and also out¬ 
side the limits of the subconscious as we know it up to now. 

If it ever does happen it won’t make the slightest difference 
whether I believe it or not, or whether you do either, any more 
than it makes any difference whether you believe in dynamite 
or not—because one person authentically possessed of tele¬ 
pathic or clairvoyant power, and capable of pragmatically 
using it, could make the world his toy for good or evil, 
wreck all the stock markets in less than a week, smash 
Governments with their secret diplomacy, control the out¬ 
come of all battles, whether in the Baltic or in ‘ big busi¬ 
ness He could begin by breaking the bank at Monte Carlo, 
all the baccarat banks, three-card monte and ‘ Russian ’ 
banks, in the world, pick up the Union Pacific en passant, 
then go on and break the Bank of England. 

Clairvoyance is believed by many to include not merely 
the power of projecting the extra-sensory vision through 
space, and through opaque objects, the pasteboard of Rhine’s 
cards, through solid walls, across hundreds of intervening 
miles, to perceive things occurring elsewhere in the current 
instant of time; but also the power to project it both backwards 
and forwards in space-time. 1 

If space-time is curved, and if time and space are inter¬ 
dependent, as Einstein holds in theory, then, by one of the 
metaphysical corollaries, the past, present, and future instant 
are perhaps space-time illusions—the future already existent in 
space and the sum total of the past still spatially existent in 
the current instant. 

Light travels at the speed of 186,000 miles per second, and 
many of the great fixed stars are hundreds of light-years dis¬ 
tant from the earth. Beetle-goose (Betelgeuse) is more than 

1 See Appendix, pp. 258-260. 


i 53 

272 light-years distant. The Swan (Cygnus) is 1630 light-years 
distant. Andromeda’s Whirling Spray, that spiral galaxy 
which is another * universe ’ beyond the Milky Way, is about 
800,000 light-years distant from the earth. If you were some¬ 
where out there, and could see light carried there from here, 
bringing you visual images, what you would see in the light¬ 
waves would be our ancient Stone Age with its cave men, 
Pharaoh building the first pyramid, Caesar’s legions marching 
—depending on how many light-years distant you stopped off 
—all occurring as images in the present nick of time. If you 
were sitting to-day on a remote planet revolving around Betel- 
geuse, and had a telescope sufficiently powerful to see what 
was occurring here on this earth, you would see George Wash¬ 
ington crossing the Delaware. If you went to one 450 light- 
years distant and looked back you’d see Columbus crossing 
the Atlantic. The light and visual images which reached your 
eye could bring you nothing later than the length of time it 
took the light to travel, so that you’d see those things happen¬ 
ing again in distant time-space, in what would be for you the 
present nick of time. In visual terms and terms of light, to 
this hypothetical earthling space-projected to distant planets, 
if he went to a planet 80 light-years distant, the American 
Civil War would be only now beginning, and the shot which 
killed Abraham Lincoln would not yet have flashed. As for 
our present nick of time, with its Manhattan skyscrapers, 
streamline trains, aeroplanes, Hitler’s madness, current on the 
instant here, it would still be veiled in an 80-years-distant 
future, to a visual observer 80 light-years away. 

A final curious, purely Einsteinian corollary of the queer 
space-time relation in terms of light is that if you could travel 
through space with a speed greater than light you could stop 
off like excursionists or God, live in any period of the past you 
chose; and so, it would seem, could likewise go scooting into 
the future. To May Sinclair, philosopher, metaphysician, and 
novelist, is attributed the limerick which caps these scientific 

There was a young lady named Bright, 

Whose speed was much greater than light; 

She went off one day 

(In a relative way), 

And returned on the previous night. 



If Einstein’s theory is sound, and if such speed were attain¬ 
able, the young lady could literally do it, while telepathy and 
clairvoyance, including the reading of the future, would be¬ 
come as simple as television and the radio. 

If tranced esoterics, cataleptic dervishes, or your Aunt Sally 
ever do get glimpses of the hidden past or future they prob¬ 
ably get them in some such fourth-dimensional manner, pierc¬ 
ing through and beyond what Jung and Fulton Oursler call the 
‘ slit ’ in time. 

If anything happened to Kipling’s Brushwood Boy or to 
Christopher Isherwood more recently in Connecticut, 1 where 
he saw his niece playing tennis next summer and read a bird¬ 
cage catalogue published in 1949, it must have been some¬ 
thing like what happened to the young lady in the limerick. 

I got some extraordinary results in this category which I’ll 
describe in a later chapter, with a young lady named Justine. 
If they consisted of anything beyond delving, dreaming, and 
wandering in the rich caverns of her own deep subconscious 
mind, it must have been in that mysterious category. 

One thing only is certain, and that is that the illusion of 
it, frequently more startling and vivid than any present 
material reality, is something nearly all people have experi¬ 
enced once or twice in a lifetime, usually under nervous strain, 
fatigue, or stress. It is a condition which can be deliberately 
produced, increased in frequency, prolonged in time, by deli¬ 
berate technique and practice. I believe the possibility of ex¬ 
periencing these illusions, or whatever they are, to be inherent 
in all humans. Anybody can go through that ‘ door ’ with 
training and patience. I’ve been through it, like all who have 
experimented with magic whether white or black. I think 
anybody, as I’ve said, is potentially able to do it. But it isn’t 
easy. If you think concentration is easy, ‘ blanking ’ the nor¬ 
mal activities of the surface-conscious mind, staring with 
closed eyes at nothing, or staring with open eyes at a globe or 
pencil point, sitting cramped for long hours—just try it for 
one hour! In the East, where they’ve been at it for five thou¬ 
sand years, only the highest adepts can do it without mechani¬ 
cal aids. Only the greatest mystic seers and saints can do it 
by sheer will-power alone. 

1 See Appendix, pp. 258-260. 



And even then the memorable experiences seem to come 
almost by accident, as my most memorable seemingly super¬ 
normal experience did one night on Harrison Smith's yawl, 
the Cossack , in an Atlantic storm off the New England coast 
—off Monhegan Light. 

Chapter II 

‘Astral Body 3 on a Boat 

T HE Cossack is a 42-foot yawl, teakwood-finished, built in 
Germany in the great days of Kaiser Wilhelm—and was 
owned for a while in America by the New York publisher and 
yachtsman Harrison Smith. He sold her not long ago, and 
now has a newer boat, the Cossack II, 

During the summers when I was crewing on the old Cossack , 
in the late twenties, she used to lie at the Yacht Club in Port 
Washington. She was a grand boat, and, before my time, had 
crossed the Atlantic more than once. She had cruised in the 
Isles of Greece, outridden North Atlantic storms, and come 
through high adventures in the Bay of Biscay. We sailed her 
frequently in the Sound, occasionally up through the Cape Cod 
Canal, occasionally to Martha’s Vineyard, Nantucket, and Bar 
Harbour. Hal himself was skipper, and we generally sailed 
with an amateur crew of three or four. One August he and 
I alone took her out of Port Washington, planning to pick up 
the other members of the party at New London. Arriving 
at New London, we found a wire saying they hadn’t been able 
to catch their train on the day they’d planned, but would join 
us later, up in Maine. So we decided to go on. Normally it 
would have been nothing for the two of us to handle her. 
Hal was a veteran skipper. Being shorthanded, we could put 
in anywhere we pleased to anchor and sleep at night. But we 
got caught in a memorable storm off Monhegan Light, and he 
wisely decided that the safest thing was to run for it, way off¬ 
shore, and ride it out. The Cossack could take it. The Cossack 
could take anything in open water. And there would have been 
no sense in risking piling her up inshore, trying to make a 
harbour. It was never dangerous. It was merely an exciting 
little adventure, in which we didn’t risk losing anything but 
sleep. But the storm continued; the wind came mostly out of 
the north-west. We were blown well out to sea; and stayed 

out there three days and nights. Nobody worried. There was 




nothing to worry about—except provisions. We had been 
going to buy them later when the party was complete, and the 
only reserve we had aboard was some old tins of corned beef. 
The goddamned stuff must have been aboard for a couple of 
years. But we weren’t very hungry. We were both wall-eyed 
from loss of sleep, for close to ninety hours. The boat couldn’t 
take care of herself in that weather, even running before the 
wind. One of us had to be continually at the wheel, with the 
other continually on call. Most of the time we were both on 
deck. Then, when it had quieted a little, we took alternating 
four-hour shifts, one of us at the wheel, while the other tried to 
snatch four hours of sleep below. What with the excitement, 
our liking each other, our talk of Moby Dick, our struggles 
to heat the goddamned corned-beef hash and keep the coffee 
pot from turning over, I don’t think either of us ever thought 
about being physically tired; and I don’t recall that we were 
ever tired, in a body-muscle sense at all. But we were wall¬ 
eyed, dopey, and at the same time keyed to a sort of super¬ 
sensitivity, from prolonged loss of sleep. We felt, thought, and 
saw things with a sort of acute super-lucidity which made it 
seem as if a veil or fog had been lifted from our minds and 
from the normal outline of the masts against the thick sky. 
We talked about it. Anybody who has, in the War or else¬ 
where, gone for an abnormally long time without sleep, in 
exciting circumstances which make sleep still impossible, will 
know what I am talking about. It gives the same sort of 
seemingly mystical clarity of inner vision that dentist's gas or 
anaesthetics sometimes do in the transitional moments. 

At eight o’clock on the evening before what was to be the 
last day of the storm Hal relieved me at the wheel, and I went 
below to lie down and try to sleep. I found I couldn’t sleep. 
My mind was racing. In thinking of the curious, abnormal 
state our minds were in I began to recall a period I’d spent, 
engaged in long study, with a famous group of Eastern mystics 
who have been specialists for a thousand years in curious, ab¬ 
normal states of mind. While in Arabia I had served a novi¬ 
tiate in the celebrated Melewi monastery in the mountains 
behind Syrian Tripoli. The Melewi, known only as “ Whirling 
Dervishes ” to our Western world, are the highest order of the 
Sufi, and are considered to be the most learned of all the 



mystical religious groups of Islam. Their whirling, which has 
caught the outside world’s eye, has been circused, toured, and 
exploited—just as the Sistine Chapel Choir has, and for the 
same simple reason that its music, vestments, and its dancing 
too, are beautiful. But to them whirling is a way of inducing 
the mystical trance states in which they believe themselves 
endowed with supernormal senses, vision, and power. But it 
isn’t all dancing and music by any means in a Melewi monas¬ 
tery. A lot of it is plain, hard study. And I was thinking now 
of the efforts they had made to teach me the elemental prin¬ 
ciples on which they base their belief that the mind (or soul) 
and the body can be separated, that the mind (or soul) can go 
out beyond the body, can “ shuffle off this mortal coil ” tem¬ 
porarily, as it were, leaving it and returning to it, as one does 
with a house or a garment. By study I don’t mean that you 
memorize abracadabra or the ninety-nine names of Allah 
backwards. They don’t go in for hocus-pocus. In one of the 
first lessons the monk in charge of my instruction had held a 
lighted candle to my hand, so that the flame touched, and 

“ Tell me what I am doing.” 

“ You are burning me! ” I yelped, like a resentful kid. 

“ No,” he said, “ flame cannot touch you. You might have 
answered that I was burning your hand. And that, in a sense, 
would be moving towards the truth, but not far enough. Your 
hand is not you. And neither are the nerves running from 
your hand to your brain. And neither is your brain. Nor is 
your body you; nor any part of it, nor the sum total of it. 
If you devote your life to this, as I suppose you won’t, you can 
reach the point where it would be a hand, rather than your 
hand that was being burned.” 

Presently he had reached over and deliberately torn the 
sleeve of my robe. Again he said: 

“ Teh me what I did.” 

I was going to say, “ You have torn the sleeve of my robe,” 
but recalled that they had handed it to me when I began the 
novitiate and had not let me pay for it, since everything in 
the monastery was common property. So I replied: 

“ You have torn the sleeve of a robe.” 

“ That is better,” he said. “ And your body is no more you, 



no more your property either, than this robe is. Your body is 
simply a material object which you inhabit temporarily as 
you inhabit this garment. It is like your worldly wealth, if 
you happen to have any. You use it. It is, of course, not you. 
But it is not yours either. Nothing is you or yours, except 
your self —your 

“ Suppose,” I had said, “ that instead of a candle you had 
lighted a bonfire and burned my body to ashes... 

“ Suppose,” he said, “ I threw this robe of yours in the bon¬ 
fire instead. In that case you would be naked—of your robe. 
If your body were burned you would be naked—of your body.” 

“ It would hurt like fury,” I said, and he replied, “ It would 
indeed, unless you had become an adept. Have you forgotten 
that your own Christian saints have smiled and felt only the 
calm ecstasy of purification and deliverance as flames 
devoured their bodies? It is the same with our highest adepts.” 

“ Fd hate to have to try it,” I said, and my monk had an¬ 
swered with smiling candour, “ I shouldn’t like to try it myself. 
I doubt if I am sufficiently holy. But in easier circumstances 
I have learned to detach the self from the material body, and 
if you remained with us long enough we could teach you to 
do it too.” 

Of course, I hadn’t remained in the monastery long enough 
—since “ long enough “ might have meant twenty years, a 
lifetime—but they’d taught me quite a lot, and once, I vividly 
now recalled as I lay there wide-eyed, sleepless, I had put a part 
of that teaching into practice, in America. I’d begun to be 
bothered with an impacted wisdom tooth. It turned out to be 
such a honey that my own dentist sent me to that emperor of 
tooth-pullers Hasbrouck, who gave me gas and cracked it loose 
and pulled it out in pieces, along with some slivers from the 
jawbone. He’d poked novocain or something in it too, so that 
when I came out of the sleep I felt nothing more than a slightly 
sore jaw, as if I’d been hit with a club. He’d said, “ In two or 
three hours, when the shock wears off, it’s going to hurt you, 
probably badly. I’m giving you these three morphine pills-” 

He told me what to do, and how to take one or more of 
them if need be. I went home in a taxi, feeling as if I’d been 
in a bar-room fight, but feeling pretty good about it, with the 



morphine pills in my pocket. I lived in an apartment at Floyd 
Keeler’s house, 52 West 12th Street, and Katie was South at 
the time, if I recall correctly. At any rate, I was alone there, 
mid-afternoon, still feeling pretty good. I lay down, as I’d been 
told, put a compress on the jaw, laid out the little box of pills 
with a glass of water, regarded their protective presence with 
contentment, and nearly dozed. 

About 5 p.m. it began. It wasn’t much of anything at first 
—just a dull, increasing ache, but enough to make me think 
I’d better be taking one of the pills pretty soon. Then, all of 
a sudden, with no other warning, it started really doing its 
stuff—and it wasn’t like anything I’d ever felt or dreamed of. 
I’d had my thumb caught in a car door once, but it couldn’t 
touch what was happening now. It knocked me upright, as 
if my head had exploded, and I let out a screech. Before I 
could grab for the pills and glass it subsided, and then began 
coming back, this time in waves instead of explosions. The 
pain was god-awful, but I felt astonishment, surprise, almost a 
slight detachment, about the waves. They suffused my inner 
universe. They began bright red, then began to glow, became 
a white flame, and then turned black as the wave receded. 
I wondered if anything like that happened to women having 
babies. Was it like that when they screeched? There was no¬ 
body to hear me, so I let out a couple of good screeches. I 
thought, “ If the black continued black, if the edges of light 
round the black went completely away ... I suppose that 
would be fainting.” The red waves came . .. turning to flame 
again. I thought, “ God almighty, if I could get outside this 
it would be really interesting.” I remembered what the Melewi 
had tried to teach me, and thought now would be a time to 
try it. I’d just about forgotten the morphine pills. I hate pain, 
and am as much a coward as anybody, but what was happen¬ 
ing to me was one of the most violent and interesting things 
that had ever happened to me in my life. So I tried to do what 
they had taught me. There’s no incantation hocus-pocus in it. 
There’s a bit of technique which they call “ shifted concentra¬ 
tion,” but what it boils down to is simply the persistent use 
of the will, towards detachment. I set about trying—and ended 
by never touching the morphine pills, because in a very few 
minutes I had done what they taught me, completely. There 



it was—the waves and the pain, the red, the glow, the white 
flame; the stabbing pain and then the ache making everything 
turn black—the sequences kept occurring exactly as before— 
but instead of experiencing them in the sense of being torn 
by them I felt that it was like calmly remembering them. 

This part is perhaps a little difficult to describe. But it had 
seemed to me it was exactly like going through violent, second¬ 
hand experiences, in reading a novel, or in calm remembrance. 
It doesn’t give you any physical pain, or any psychic pain 
either, to remember when your thumb was caught in a car 
door, or when you had an inflamed appendix, or, if you’re a 
mother, when you had a baby, but you can remember all the 
details, how much it hurt, how it waved and varied. You can 
become fully re-aware of the pain, but the re-awareness doesn’t 
pain you. Well, it was almost exactly like that, except that the 
awareness and the occurring were taking place simultaneously. 
They continued simultaneously for several hours, during which 
I lived in that truly 4 magical world ’ of Melewi detachment. 
When it finally died down I was merely tired, and went to 
sleep. If I’d had a scientific mind, which I lack, I think I’d 
have sacrificed a thumbnail by banging it once with a ham¬ 
mer, while in that state, to see whether the detachment held— 
whether it would be my thumb or just a thumb I whacked. 
But I overlooked the opportunity. 

And now I lay sleepless, keyed nervously to abnormal ten¬ 
sion, with my mind racing back to those experiences, while 
wind and wave pounded the Cossack, held on her course by 
Hal up there on deck at the wheel. I looked at the luminous 
dial of my watch to see when I’d be going to relieve him. It 
lacked only ten minutes to midnight, when it would be my 
shift up there. I was about to go in the galley and make some 
coffee first, when I thought, or rather felt, with a sudden quick 
flash, Well, if I could do one of the things the Melewi taught 
me perhaps I could now do another. Suppose I can. Suppose 
it’s true. Suppose I try. Suppose I do it! 

I lay back in the bunk, and closed my eyes, and began form¬ 
ing words. I can send my body up there to the wheel, a body 
with its eyes to watch the compass, a body with its hand to 
steer. I will send it. But I am not that body. I will remain 


here, to sleep. I will repose here, lying in the Melewi ‘ astral 
body/ to sleep. 

It was bright, cold daylight, with the sun glaring through 
the morning haze. The wind was still high, but the storm 
was abating. I was there at the wheel, and the boat was steady 
on her course. Hal, I learned later, had been shouting at me, 
then pounding me on the back, then trying to pull my hands 
away from the wheel. They were cold and blue like the hands 
of a dead man. 

I said, “ Good morning.” 

Hal said, “ Good morning hell, Willie! What on earth hap¬ 
pened to you? I thought you had passed out. Your eyes were 
wide open, and the boat was steady on her course—the wind 
hasn’t changed—and she’s been on it all night. But when I 
came on deck I thought you had passed out. I should have 
come up at four, you know, but I went sound asleep, and you 
didn’t call me. I guess you must have passed out with your 
eyes wide open just before I came on deck.” 

I said, “ What time is it? ” 

He said, “ It’s long past six.” 

We looked at our watches. It was nearly seven o’clock. He 
said, “ Are you sure you’re all right now? Can you get below 
all right?” 

“ Yes,” I said, “ I’m fine. By the way, did I come up last 
night, or did you come down and get me? ” 

He said, “ What do you mean, Willie? It was just mid¬ 
night, and I was just going to yell down when you came up. 
Don’t you remember? ” 

I said, “Did I say anything to you? ” 

“ No.” 

“ Did I do anything strange? ” 

“ Not unless your not saying anything was strange. I asked 
you if you wanted some coffee, and sort of wondered why you 
didn’t answer.” 

So that was that. Whatever I’d done, I had done it. I had 
no recollection of anything that had occurred in the seven- 
hour interval since I’d repeated the word ‘ sleep.’ One part of 
me, with feet, eyes, muscles, hands, functioning like a robot’s, 



had gone up on deck and been there at the wheel doing its 
physical-mechanical job. Another part of me had been in deep 
and dreamless slumber—somewhere. I’m not insisting where, 
because I don’t know where. The Melewi teach that it had 
been asleep in an astral body which was left lying below in 
the bunk, while the soulless, three-dimensional body of flesh 
and blood climbed up on deck. They teach that the astral 
body would have been invisible and intangible to the normal 
eye and touch, but that an adept could have literally seen its 
shadowy outlines. They teach that Hal—that is, any person 
with senses and perceptions solely normal—could have sat, or 
slept, in the same bunk, completely unconscious of any other 
presence; but that a cat or dog would have known. I’m not 
sure I believe any of that part of the Melewi teaching. I am 
inclined, on the contrary, to doubt it. I know simply that a 
part of me had slept soundly through the night, while another 
part of me, steering by wheel, wind, and compass, had held 
the Cossack steady—and had kept her on her course. 

Chapter III 

Our Modern Cagliostros 

OOKING back for my limited purpose upon Cagliostro 

I j simply as a man who claimed to be the greatest white 
magician of his epoch, sponsored by kings, princes, Marie 
Antoinette, and Cardinal de Rohan, idealized by Houdon, 
immortalized later by Dumas in Joseph Balsamo (and speci¬ 
fically leaving out of my comparison his connexion with affairs 
like that of the Queen’s necklace, since none of the modern 
gentlemen I propose to examine at length has ever been ac¬ 
cused of swindling), I perceive three outstanding Cagliostros, 
white magicians, alive and active in our modern Western 
world to-day, with a fine new crop coming up as I write. 1 By 
calling them ‘ white magicians ’ I mean they traffic in magic 
and the occult, claiming to help rather than harm their fellow- 
man (and -woman). By calling them ‘Cagliostros ’ 2 I mean 
that in process of doing this they have variously won fame 
and fortune; have consorted with and been sponsored by the 
modern democratic equivalents of kings, cardinals, princes, 
their wives and mistresses—in Wall Street and Park Avenue, 
Park Lane, and the Champs-Elysees. I have known two of 
them fairly intimately over a long period. The three are: 

George Gurdjieff, founder of the Gurdjieff Institute in Fon¬ 
tainebleau and New York, which in its heyday is said to have 
had twenty-nine schools scattered about in Europe and 
America; Aleister Crowley, founder of the Great White 
Brotherhood, the Order of Oriental Templars in England and 
America, and of the College of the Holy Ghost, sometimes 

1 See Appendix, pp. 260-266. 

2 In using “ Cagliostro ” as a generic term applied to these famous 
modern occultists I have no intention of asserting that any of them are 
charlatans. Whether an individual who traffics in white magic is a char¬ 
latan or not is always a matter of opinion, depending on whether or not 
you believe in his magic. To an atheist, for an extreme instance, a vested 
priest celebrating the 'mysteries of the Mass is technically a charlatan. To 
many rationalists all white magicians are charlatans. Concerning the three 
men I propose to discuss, your opinions on this point will be your own. 



referred to as the Abbey of Thelema, in Cefalu, Sicily; Pierre 
Bernard, known as “ Oom the Omnipotent,” founder of the 
wealthy Brae Burn club and cult at Nyack, New Jersey. 

I have never met Mr Pierre Bernard, who is sponsored by 
Vanderbilts, Dukes, the former Mrs Ogden Mills, and many 
other distinguished people, including the prize-fighter Lou 
Nova. I have, however, all the material publicly available on 
him, and am including it in my appendix notes. 1 

George Gurdjieff, in my opinion, is, or was, the greatest of 
the three. He first came to America in January 1924, sponsored 
by the late Alfred Richard Orage, formerly editor of The New 
Age; by the world-famous Russian mathematician Ouspensky; 
by Muriel Draper, Zona Gale, Claude Bragdon, Ernest Poole, 
and other variously celebrated or influential Americans. 

I was taken to meet him privately on the night after his 
arrival, in a palatial suite in an old-fashioned uptown hotel, 
and was so deeply impressed by his brains and brute strength 
that we sat talking until nearly dawn. Whether his power lay 
simply in the fields of hypnotism and autosuggestion, or went 
beyond it into authentic telepathy and clairvoyance, or even 
further into the Tibetan and Yoga fields of alleged occult 
miracle-working, I never became convinced—for the reason 
that Eve never yet become convinced that power in these latter 
categories can exist at all. But whatever category Gurdjieff’s 
power may have lain in—in those days he had power. 

He had brought with him from Europe a group of forty 
disciples, and on the evening of January 23 gave a public 
demonstration at Leslie’s Ballroom, 260 West 83rd Street. On 
February 9 he gave another demonstration to a crowded audi¬ 
ence in Carnegie Hall. A number of other demonstrations, 
some free and some with an admission charge, were given at 
the Neighbourhood Theatre, and elsewhere, and there was a 
farewell demonstration on March 3, again at Carnegie. These 
demonstrations consisted, as the programmes put it, of “ Move¬ 
ment, Music, and Production of Phenomena,” the latter based 
chiefly upon “ hypnotism and magnetism in the broad sense.” 
There were also “ tricks, semi-tricks, and real phenomena 
occurring in religious ceremonies.” 

The hypnotic, magnetic, mind-reading, clairvoyant, and 

1 See Appendix, pp. 272-275. 



telepathic parts of the performances were varied and interest¬ 
ing, but since they were fundamentally no different from those 
of Houdini, who specifically denied any supernormal power 
whatsoever and insisted that the audience was being enter¬ 
tained by ‘ stage magic/ there is no point in describing them. 

What excited and interested me was the amazing, brilliant, 
automaton-like, inhuman, almost incredible docility and robot¬ 
like obedience of the disciples, in the parts of the demonstra¬ 
tions which had to do with movement. They were like a group 
of perfectly trained zombis, or like circus animals jumping 
through hoops ringed with fire, or like the soldiers of 
Christophe who marched without breaking step off the para¬ 
pet of the citadel on that sheer mountainside in Haiti. They 
did things, without suffering any apparent hurt, almost as 
dangerous as dropping off a cliff, and certainly more danger¬ 
ous than leaping through fiery hoops. 

The group consisted of young and youngish women, most 
of whom were handsome and some of whom were beautiful; 
and of men who looked as if they had come, and probably did 
in most cases, from the best British and Continental homes and 
universities. I met some of these disciples, and they were al¬ 
most without exception people of culture, breeding, and intelli¬ 
gence. The demonstrations, I imagine, were to show the extent 
to which the Gurdjieff Institute in Fontainebleau had taught 
them supernormal powers of physical control, co-ordination, 
relaxation, etc. And there was no fake about it, regardless of 
whether it was supernormal or not, because if they hadn’t 
learned supreme co-ordination they’d have broken their arms 
and legs, and maybe their necks, in some of the stunts they 
did. But what I felt the demonstrations showed, even more 
than their control over themselves, was the terrific domina¬ 
tion of Gurdjieff, the Master. At his command they’d race, 
spread out, at breakneck speed, from left to right across the 
stage, and at another low command from him freeze full flight 
as if caught by a race-track camera. Once I saw Gurdjieff push 
a dancer who had been ‘ frozen ’ by his command in an atti¬ 
tude of difficult equilibrium. The dancer tumbled and rolled 
over several times, then rolled upright and was back again, 
apparently without volitionally assuming it, in the original 
frozen position, 



GurdjiefF himself, a calm, bull-like man, with muscles in 
those days hard as steel, in immaculate dinner clothes, his 
head shaven like a Prussian officer’s, with black luxuriant 
handle-bar moustaches, and generally smoking expensive 
Egyptian cigarettes, stood casually down in the audience, or 
off to the side beside the piano, which was not on stage. He 
never shouted. He was always casual. Yet always in complete 
command. It was as if he were a slave-master or wild-animal 
tamer, with an invisible bull whip swishing inaudibly through 
the air. Among his other qualities he was a great showman, 
and a climax came one night which literally had the front 
rows out of their seats. The troupe was deployed extreme 
back stage, facing the audience. At his command they came 
racing full tilt towards the footlights. We expected to see a 
wonderful exhibition of arrested motion. But instead Gurd- 
jieff calmly turned his back, and was lighting a cigarette. In 
the next split second an aerial human avalanche was flying 
through the air, across the orchestra, down among empty 
chairs, on the floor, bodies pell-mell, piled on top of each 
other, arms and legs sticking out in weird postures—frozen 
there, fallen, in complete immobility and silence. 

Only after it had happened did Gurdjieff turn and look 
at them as they lay there, still immobile. When they presently 
arose, by his permission, and it was evident that no arms, legs, 
or necks had been broken—no one seemed to have suffered 
even so much as a scratch or bruise—there were storms of 
applause, mingled with a little protest. It had been almost too 

Audiences which saw some of these fantastic performances 
included New York Times reporters, an editor from Collier’s, 
some of the editors from the Bookman, Fannie Hurst, J. Julius 
Forman, Walter Damrosch, Carl Brandt, Percy Stickney 
Grant, Christopher Morley, Mrs Philip Lydig, Walter Kings¬ 
ley, Arnold Genthe, Rebecca West, and numbers of professors 
from the universities. 

According to Orage, who had abandoned The New Age and 
the single-tax movement to become Gurdjieff’s right-hand 
man; according also to Ouspensky, to Claude Bragdon, and to 
numbers of other distinguished experts and students of such 
matters, Gurdjieff was at that time also wielding powers of 



white magic in the field of the occult which were even more 
extraordinary in their way than any of these sensational exhi¬ 
bitions in New York. 

Whatever it was—or whatever its basis—Gurdjieff certainly 
had power. On the question of what it was and what its basis 
may have been I have already defined pretty clearly the limits 
of my own scepticism. I submit the available facts about Gurd¬ 
jieff, and let you form your own opinions. Many of these facts 
I have at first hand. Others I learned from Orage and his 
associates. A few facts and dates are culled from the library of 
the New York Times . 

George Gurdjieff was born, in 1873, of Greek parentage, in 
the Transcaucasian town of Aleksandropol, which made him 
a Russian subject. He was christened George S. Gorgiades. He 
ran away to sea at an early age, and later spent many years in 
Outer Mongolia and Tibet, where he is said to have been at 
one time a Tibetan monk, and to have absorbed the mystical 
practices and teachings of the Sufis, Yogis, Melewi, Rufiah, 
and Persian dervishes. I can testify of my own knowledge that 
Gurdjieff knows more about dervish mysticism and magic 
than any man I have ever met outside a dervish monastery. 

During the Russian revolution and the years immediately 
succeeding it he was in Constantinople, in London, and finally 
established himself in Fontainebleau, outside Paris, where he 
founded the Institute which is said to represent the first organ¬ 
ized effort to bring to the Western world the esoteric prac¬ 
tices developed in India and Tibet. The disciples in this Insti¬ 
tute, which was housed in a fine chateau with its dependences, 
on a superb estate, were principally wealthy, cultured, and in 
a few instances celebrated, people. There were also a limited 
number of non-paying students, men and women. 

Rhythm, ritual, and physical discipline played a large part 
in the routine at the chateau. Classes began their exercise- 
dances at dusk, and danced for several hours during the night. 
In the daytime the disciples, including a princess or two, 
assorted countesses, and a number of wealthy bankers, broke 
rock, trundled wheelbarrows, tended pigs, pulled weeds, and 
worked at other heavy manual tasks. A theory was that when 
they became so tired that collapse was imminent strength 



would come from an inner source of reserve power—that they 
would get their ‘ second wind/ as it were, or whatever they 
call second wind on the top of the Himalayas. 

Said Gurdjieff sententiously one day, “ Pig-raising and weed¬ 
pulling have a tendency to teach people with their heads in 
the air that their feet must be still on the ground/’ Thus he 
taught the countesses humility and obedience—but for dif¬ 
ferent disciples he had different preliminary treatments. Gurd¬ 
jieff, I keep telling you, was a great man in those days, and I 
really think he was. For instance, in dealing with pupils who 
were of the severe, puritanical ‘ New England ’ type he pres¬ 
cribed—instead of weed-pulling and rock-breaking—“ soft 
music and perfumed wines”! Said he, “ Of course I know 
intoxication is not always good—but neither is sobriety always 
good. The lure of music and the kindling of feeling are 
remedies, however, which do not avail, I must admit, with all 
my pupils.” 

For others he prescribed “ the rigours of suffering, hardship, 
torture, even with whips . . . long hours of meditation.” 

Gurdjieff had learned whatever he learned from esoteric 
mystics in the East. Gurdjieff was not umpiring parlour 
games. Gurdjieff was turning on the heat. While French, 
British, and American journalists were permitted to visit the 
set-up whenever they chose, and frequently did, and while a 
number of them definitely disliked Mr Gurdjieff, no scandal 
or suggestion of scandal was ever connected with him or with 
the Institute. When Gurdjieff and his Fontainebleau cult are 
mentioned the first thing the general public is likely to remem¬ 
ber is “ Oh, yes, that’s where Katherine Mansfield died.” So 
she did, but she was dying of tuberculosis before she ever went 

A cardinal point in Gurdjieff’s teachings was the breaking 
of habit, and to help accomplish this many of the dances were 
wild and eccentric in the extreme. So far as anybody knows 
sex never “ reared its ugly head ” in Gurdjieff’s modus oper - 
andi, but apart from that the dances were a cross between a 
voodoo bamboche in the jungle and a temple celebration of 
the Mysteries of Eleusis. Limbs, heads, muscles, body, just 
went hither and yon. Our jitterbugs at their best and fanciest 



are unimaginative earthworms compared to GurdjiefFs disci¬ 
ples when they really got going. 

Scores of them—at one time he had almost a hundred— 
clad in flowing white, grey, and crimson garments, danced. 
The musicians were hidden. The music was exotic, oriental, 
sometimes mystical and sensuous, sometimes wild and crash¬ 
ing. Gurdjieff, the Master, remained out of sight behind a 
curtain, whence he issued his commands. Each individual 
dancer responded to the commands “ as his soul dictated.” 

A visiting Sunday World reporter, describing one of these 
typical evenings, wrote: 

Tired business-men, bankers, intellectuals, actresses, barons, 
countesses, millionaires, gave themselves up to the music. At a 
command from Gurdjieff they stood perfectly rigid for several 
minutes, and then began to move their arms in unison; rapid, 
jerky movements, their joints giving the effect of working on 
ball bearings. The music quickened its pace, so did the arms. 
Legs and bodies swayed, heads bobbed frantically from side to 
side. Arms, legs, hands, and heads acted in complete indepen¬ 
dence of one another, and each dancer seemed to executing 
a series of movements different from his neighbour’s, yet the 
total effect of the group was harmonious as it shifted with elec¬ 
trical rapidity from one pattern into another. The music grew 
louder. At another command from Gurdjieff the music stopped 
suddenly and the dancers stood as if petrified in bizarre atti¬ 
tudes until released by another command. 

GurdjiefFs disciples apparently worked systematically, 
under his control, to break all their habits, both good and bad, 
thus freeing their lives from the ordinary man’s usual slavery 
to habits. They lived a communal life. They did not regard 
their rhythmic exercises as rites or ceremonies. They regarded 
communal life as necessary for producing in highly concen¬ 
trated form all the friction, all the reaction, pleasant and un¬ 
pleasant, that are met with in ordinary life. Indifference to 
these reactions was one of their goals. 

Essence of the teaching seemed to be that through intense 
physical labour, fasting, and elaborate exercises the physical 
machine is made perfectly obedient and responsive to the will. 
They believed that in doing this the individual becomes pos¬ 
sessed of faculties far exceeding those of the average man. 
Clairvoyance, ability to see at a distance, power to know what 
another is thinking, telepathic capacity, were supposed to be 


some of the accomplishments. Also a larger vision of the 

Gurdjieff said, “ If we live calm, monotonous days and 
peaceful nights we stultify. We had better torture our own 
spirit than suffer the inanities of calm.” 

His disciples therefore were wakened at all hours of the 
night suddenly, and had learned to remain ‘ frozen ’ in what¬ 
ever positions they had chanced to stand or fall in when leap¬ 
ing out of bed. 

I’d have enjoyed being Gurdjieff in those days. I’ve got a 
whole list of friends, including a couple of darling and digni¬ 
fied old “ River ” ladies, whom I’d vastly enjoy having in such 
a menagerie. But I’m not sure I’d care to be one of Gurdjieff’s 
disciples. The man had power. But whether he was able to 
impart it to others is a different question. It seemed to me that 
when disciples entered Gurdjieff’s cult they sacrificed their 
wills and personalities rather than enhanced them. I know, 
of course, that greater masters than Gurdjieff (including, in¬ 
deed, the Master) taught a deep and similarly paradoxical 
philosophy. But, like nearly everything in the realm of white 
magic, its mystical efficacy in our modern world remains an 
open question. 

One of Job’s celebrated sayings, which my friend Gurdjieff 
had evidently never read, was: “ Would . .. that mine adver¬ 
sary had written a book! ” 

The more you think that one over the better it gets—as this 
episode concerning Gurdjieff may serve to illustrate. 

Mr Gurdjieff came back to New York in January 1931, 
rented a number of luxurious apartments at 204 West 59th 
Street, and telephoned me one day that he had written a book. 
He knew that I liked him. He had not only written a book, 
but, as amateur authors so frequently do, he craved to have 
some of it read aloud to a group of people who might be 
capable of appreciating its beauty and wisdom. He always did 
things in the grand manner. He asked me to invite as many 
selected friends as I chose to his apartments on a certain even¬ 
ing for the reading, and to enjoy an Arabian Nights collation 
afterwards. I knew the supper would be marvellous, and felt 
it my duty to choose only intelligent friends to hear the read¬ 
ing. I was accused afterwards of having chosen individuals 



whose intelligence was distinctly in the nine-minute-egg cate¬ 
gory. If I did it was as a compliment to Mr GurdjiefF. Among 
those who came I recall particularly Behaviourist John Wat¬ 
son, of Johns Hopkins, the late Lincoln Steffens, William 
Peppered Montague and a couple more of the Columbia 
Pragmatists, George Seldes (I had also invited Gilbert, and it 
seems to me he dropped in for a while), Carl Helm, of the Sun , 
two Harvard psychologists, etc. Among the ladies were Irita 
Van Doren, Claire Spencer, Virginia Hirsch, and Blair Niles. 

The evening—apart from the superb Algerian melons, 
stuffed eggplant, stuffed grape leaves, great cook-pots of 
stewed goat or whatever it was, all in true Baghdad splendour 
__ W as a complete, if always polite and amiable, fiasco. 

Disciples and secretaries read us long portions of an opus 
provisionally entitled A Criticism of the Life of Man; or, 
Beelzebub’s Tale to his Grandson. 

Late in the evening Mr Steffens and John Watson began 
whispering. Presently Mr Watson said: 

“ Either this is an elaborate and subtle joke whose point is 
completely over our heads, or it’s piffle. In either event I don t 
see much that can be gained by hearing more of it. I pro¬ 
pose, if Mr Gurdjieff is agreeable, that we now converse for 
a while.” 

So we all relaxed, and conversed, and presently supped, with 
equal amiability on the part of both host and guests. Mr 
Gurdjieff was more brilliant, and more witty, than the manu¬ 
script had been. He was so agreeable, so keen, and so affable 
that Steffens, Watson, Montague, and all the rest of them took 
him into their complete confidence and explained unanimously 
their conviction that—unless he was trying to put over a cosmic 
joke of some sort whose point had not yet become manifest— 
his future did not lie in the field of authorship. Gurdjieff sug¬ 
gested that his purport might be too deep for our limited 

There was a difference of opinion among my friends after 
we had left as to whether I had deliberately played a joke on 
Gurdjieff in selecting his auditors—or whether Gurdjieff and 
I had been in collusion to make monkeys out of them for an 
amusing evening—or whether Mr Gurdjieff was spoofing all 
of us. I’m not quite sure myself. So far as I know Beelzebub’s 



Tale has not yet had a publisher. Gurdjieff is a great man, 
but I doubt that his field lies in belles lettres. 

It was through the late Frank Harris that I first met Aleister 
Crowley, about 1917, in New York. Harris had finished his 
Shakespeare and Oscar Wilde biographies, had not yet be¬ 
smirched himself with My Life and Loves , and was editing 
the American Pearson’s Magazine. He was living in one of the 
verandahed houses in Seventh Avenue, in a Greenwich Village 
which still had Theodore Dreiser in a step-down in West 12th 
Street, Edna St Vincent Millay in the same block, Sinclair 
Lewis in a duplex studio in Tenth Street, and Eugene O’Neill 
producing his plays in the Provincetown Playhouse, south of 
Washington Square. I had served for a while with the French 
on the Western Front, had been gassed at Verdun, had re¬ 
covered enough to come home and start writing again. Aleister 
Crowley, a strange Englishman who had devoted a great part 
of his life to white magic, and was accused ignorantly by his 
many enemies of practising black magic too, was living at 
No. 1 University Place, to the utter terror of two conventional 
ladies from the South from whom he rented the ground floor. 
He was a Cambridge man, a distinguished poet, was in many 
British anthologies, including the Oxford Book of English 
Mystical Verse. He had been in the Himalayas as a mountain 
climber, was supposed to have studied Tibetan lore. In 1905, 
according to the Manchester Guardian, he had led an expedi¬ 
tion to ascend Kinchinjunga, a hundred miles south-east of 
Everest. The party attacked the southern face of the moun¬ 
tain, above Yalung Glacier, but met with disaster. One climber 
and several porters were swept away by an avalanche. I was 
wanting to meet Crowley because he was supposed to be an 
authority on medieval sorcery, and was pleased when Frank 
Harris arranged it. 

We met at lunch in Mouquin’s. Aleister Crowley was a 
strange, disturbing fellow, with a heavy, pontifical manner 
mixed with a good deal of sly, monkey-like, and occasionally 
malicious humour. He wore an enormous star sapphire on the 
forefinger of his right hand, and had his head shaved just 
then in the manner of Erich von Stroheim. He later sprouted 
an American Indian war-lock which curled slightly and made 



him somewhat resemble (with his round, smooth-shaven face 
and big, round eyes) a nursery imp masquerading as Mephisto- 
pheles. The talk at that luncheon left me gasping. Frank 
Harris was one of the greatest conversationalists of this or any 
other century, and Crowley talked like Pain’s fireworks. No 
magic, black or white, was mentioned until the end of it, when 
Crowley said he’d heard I was interested in magic and invited 
me to call on him. 

I telephoned late one morning, caught him at home, and 
went round before lunch. On entering the spacious living- 
room I was presented to a young lady, who, here in the nice 
warm magician’s castle, was naked as a jay bird, and just as 
unconcerned as one. They were not nudists. It wasn’t any¬ 
thing like that. I slowly gathered that she was a high priestess, 
and that she also occasionally turned into Astarte, Ashtoreth, 
and Isis. Since these are goddesses with a precedent dating 
back some hundreds of centuries, her lack of embarrassment 
became more easily understandable. 

What remained surprising, however, until my host kindly 
explained it, was the one thing she did wear. She couldn’t 
very well avoid wearing it, because it had been branded into 
her fair hide with the red-hot point of a Chinese sword: on 
her breast she wore a star. The Master Therion (who was Crow¬ 
ley) had done a neat, artistic job of it, and after you got over 
the first shock it rather enhanced the charm of the high 

After that first visit I got to know them both pretty well, 
and over a long period of time. Crowley had a cult, with 
followers and disciples. He never tried to make me a member 
of it. He accepted me as a sort of apprentice fellow-sorcerer, 
and I attended numbers of their ceremonies. They were Holy 
Grail stuff mostly. Some of the invocations were quite beauti¬ 
ful, and the girl made a splendid combination of high priestess 
and goddess. The ceremonial part of Crowley’s A.A. and 
O.T.O. is neither here nor there for the purposes of this book. 
There are hundreds of such cults, mostly harmless and 
generally tiresome when you’ve seen much of them. What 
interested me in Aleister Crowley was the same thing, finally, 
that had interested me in the African witch-doctors and later 
in Gurdjieff. Behind the mumbo-jumbo, whether in spite of 



or because of the mumbo-jumbo, Aleister Crowley too had 
power. Whether it was a kind of power worth having, or a 
kind that can ever—in anybody’s hands—have any profound 
effect upon the world, or whether he always used it honestly, 
are questions outside any point I’m trying to make, and which 
I don’t pretend to answer. 1 

I propose instead to recount a number of happenings of 
which I had close personal knowledge. They will cast some 
light on my assertion that he had power, and may cast a little 
light too on why I write good-humouredly about him. During 
the years in America he was part pontifical and part monkey, 
part primate and part Primate, if any man ever was. I recall 
that one summer our Master Therion gathered his followers 
around him, announced that his planets were in such and 
such conjunction, and that the time had come for him to go 
into a forty-day retirement in the ‘ wilderness ’ for prayer and 
mystical meditation. It was hot as hell in New York, and my 
own idea was that he simply wanted to go to the country. 
He happened to be out of cash at the moment, and fasting for 
forty days and nights was not included in his programme. We 
decided to stake him to a camping trip, up the Hudson river— 
got him a canoe, a tent, supplied him with some money and a 
list of American canned goods, provisions which he was going 
to buy next day. These, with the canoe and tent, were to go 
aboard the Albany day boat, and we were going down to see 
him off next morning. When we got there he was pleased as 
Punch, looking very important, supervising the embarkation 
of the provisions. The ‘ provisions ’ looked suspicious, and 
since we’d paid for them we decided to inspect them. They 
consisted of fifty gallons of red paint, three big house-painter’s 
brushes, and a heavy coil of rope. We investigated further. He 
hadn’t bought so much as a tin of beans or a loaf of bread. 
He’d blown every cent for the red paint. He had nothing in his 
pockets except the ticket for the trip up the river. 

1 Aleister Crowley himself has written a hundred or more volumes on 
both points. At least ten books have been written about him, including a 
literary biography called Star in the West, by Major-General J. F. C. Fuller, 
who years later became one of the only two Englishmen invited to Flitler’s 
fiftieth birthday dinner. The British Press, in particular the Daily Express, 
Daily Mail, and Daily Telegraph, have published tons of stuff about 
Crowley and his magic, mostly denunciatory. 



“ What are you going to eat, for crying out loud? ” we 
asked, and he replied, in his heaviest pontifical manner: 

“ My children, I am going to Esopus Island, and I will be 
fed as Elijah was fed by the ravens.” 

“ Are you coming back in a chariot of fire, or in a Black 
Maria? ” we yelled as the boat pulled out, and he waved us 
good-bye with a grin. 

Upstate New York farmers are a hard bunch for anybody 
to make monkeys out of, or to play the monkey with—but 
neighbouring farmers fed Aleister Crowley for the whole 
forty days—and at the end of the forty days all the summer 
excursionists going up and down the river saw painted on the 
cliffs south of Kingston two enormous legends: 

Every Man and Woman is a Star! 

Do What Thou Wilt 


He Had rigged himself a sling, and painted, we were told, 
from sunrise to sundown. Thereafter he had sat cross-legged on 
the ground in front of his tent, while neighbours, whether 
regarding him as a mighty prophet or a harmless crank, had 
brought him eggs and milk, and occasional sweet corn. Fre¬ 
quently when they chanced to pass next morning he would 
still be sitting like an idol, with the eggs and milk untouched. 
They said he ate sparingly, once in every twenty-four hours, 
and that it was a mystery when he slept—unless he slept while 
sitting like a Buddha in the lotus posture. He never made any 
effort to commercialize or cash in on, or gain credit for, the two 
legends painted on the rock. He had wanted to paint them 
there—and that was that. 

A. C. came back to New York in September, sunburned, 
lean, fit, and in a fine good humour. Acquaintances who were 
not among his converts said he was as crazy as a loon. I 
thought so, but recalled that the Lord Gautama had sat thus 
under a tree for eleven years. It was crazy in the age of motor¬ 
cars and aeroplanes, I agreed, but it was something. 

On the day after he had returned to New York I in¬ 
vited him to the grillroom of the Plaza for lunch, where he 
regaled himself with whitebait, steak tartare, creamcake, 


r 77 

topped off with a Napoleon brandy—then lighted a Belinda 

I said, “ What did you get out of it, beyond cleaning out 
your colon and taking weight off your belly? ” 

“ I have gained greater power.” 

“ What kind of power? ” I asked. 

“ Perhaps,” he replied, “ I can show you.” 

“ If it’s done in the dark,” I said, “ or behind curtains, or 
with spooks, I wouldn’t believe it.” 

“ It’s a bright, sunshiny day,” he said, as if dropping the 
subject (or was he?). “ Suppose we stroll in the park in the 

I said, “ I’d like to stop at Brentano’s. Suppose we stroll 
down Fifth Avenue instead.” 

“ Anywhere you like,” he replied. 

We strolled. The Avenue was crowded. “ On a block where 
it thins out a bit,” said he, “ I’ll show you.” 

“ Show me what? ” 

He replied majestically, “ I will show you.” 

The crowd looked thinner ahead of us in front of the Public 
Library, and as we crossed Forty-second Street A. C. touched 
me lightly on the elbow and put his fingers to his lips. Ahead 
of us was strolling a tall, prosperous-looking gentleman of 
leisure, and Crowley, silent as a cat, fell into step immediately 
behind him. Their footfalls began to synchronize, and then 
I observed that Crowley, who generally held himself pom¬ 
pously erect and had a tendency to strut, had dropped his 
shoulders, thrust his head forward a little, like the man’s in 
front, had begun to swing his arms in perfect synchronization 
—now so perfect that he was like a moving shadow or astral 
ghost of the other. 

As we neared the end of the block A. C., in taking a step 
forward, let both knees buckle suddenly under him, so that 
he dropped, caught himself on his haunches, and was imme¬ 
diately erect again, strolling. 

The man in front of us fell as if his legs had been shot out 
from under him—and was sprawling. We helped him up as 
a crowd gathered. He was unhurt. He thanked us, and looked 
for the banana peel. There was no banana peel. With his 
hand on somebody’s shoulder he looked at the soles of his 




shoes. They were dry. He brushed himself off, regained his 
hat, tried his legs tentatively, thanked us, and strolled on. 

I think I know all the answers. The easiest one is that the 
gentleman was a stooge. The only trouble with it is that I was 
the one who had suggested strolling down the Avenue, and I 
had been at A. C/s side ever since. The gentleman, if a stooge, 
however, could have been loitering outside the Plaza, waiting 
for a signal. Identification of him and affidavits from him 
wouldn’t have helped at all, since he might always have been 
lying. The hell of all this stuff is that something of that sort 
is always the easiest answer. 

Another answer is that the gentleman, without being con¬ 
scious of it, heard the faint sound of Crowley’s cat-like foot¬ 
falls, mingled in perfect synchronization with his own, uncon¬ 
sciously identified the rhythm with his own rhythm, and fell 
when the rhythm was violently broken. There are a number 
of variations of that answer, splitting hairs a bit, but still 
leaving the phenomenon in the field of the sensory. Still an¬ 
other answer is that Crowley possessed supernormal powers, 
was generating and sending out supernormal and supersensory 
emanations. I think I know all the answers—but I’m not satis¬ 
fied with any of them. 

One following summer—it was about 1920—I invited A. C. 
to spend July and August with me on a farm near Atlanta. We 
got to talking one night about the Trappist monks, about their 
vows of silence, etc., and he suggested that we try an interest¬ 
ing variant. He proposed that for a week we limit all verbal 
communication and all conversation to one prearranged mono¬ 
syllable. We experimented with several, tried various animal 
monosyllables, including urr, woof, moo, baa, and finally de¬ 
cided upon wow. 

We stuck to this for the whole week. Katie was amused 
and tolerant, visitors wondered whether we’d gone crazy, while 
Shep and Vonie, our two Negro servants, were convinced we’d 
either joined or were founding a branch of some new religion. 
We learned in the first couple of days, or believed we did, a 
good deal about the manner in which animals communicate 
with one another. We were both surprised how much, by mere 
change in intonation, volume, etc., we could communicate. 
After we’d become pretty good, or thought we had, in “ Pass 



the butter,” “ I don’t care for any more,” “ Would you like to 
take a walk? ” “ That’s a pretty girl! ” “ It’s a fine morning,” 
“ Yes,” “ No,” “ Maybe,” “ I like it,” “ I don’t like it,” “ The 
hell with it,” “ Isn’t it wonderful? ” and elementary things of 
that sort—it chanced that one night Shep brought me a gallon 
of moonshine corn. 

A. C. and I sat up that night, drank most of it, and held a 
long, deep, philosophic conversation, in terms of wow, until 
the small hours, when Katie finally made us shut up and go 
to bed. She still insists that we simply got drunk and sat and 
barked at each other all night, but A. C. and I felt the talk had 
been profound and illuminating. 

It was at any rate profitable, for I later wrote a fantasy on 
what might happen if human language were abolished, and 
sold it to H. L. Mencken. It is entitled “ Wow,” and has 
appeared in a number of anthologies. 

A. C. subsequently went to Sicily, taking his high priestess 
with him, bought the equivalent of an old monastery and 
grounds in the hills near Cefalu, outside Palermo, gathered 
some disciples from England and America, and founded there 
his College of the Holy Ghost. 

I was in Africa again when the unfortunate episode of the 
young Oxford poet and the cat occurred, but I have closer 
knowledge of another drama which concerned a moderately 
well-known American actress who has had roles on Broadway 
and in Hollywood. The story contains nothing to anybody’s 
discredit—on the contrary!—and she lent me her diary cover¬ 
ing the entire Cefalu period, with permission to quote from it, 
but requested that I leave her name out. 

She had been suffering, as our best actresses sometimes do, 
or did, from the heebie-jeebies; from an unrequited passion 
for Horace Liveright, Jed Harris, Max Eastman, Max Boden- 
heim, or some other intellectual homme fatal of the speak¬ 
easy epoch; from too much bathtub gin, despondency, and a 
couple of other depressants which I believe included veronal. 
She had met Aleister Crowley, suffered also from a curiosity 
about the occult, and as an alternative to suicide had gone over 
to become one of his disciples for the summer. 

What happened after she had matriculated in the College of 



the Holy Ghost and taken up her residence in the Abbey of 
Thelema wasn’t anything that she’d expected. 

On a small isolated promontory within the abbey grounds, 
and overlooking the sea, the Master Therion set up the 
Sicilian equivalent of a pup tent—a shepherd’s shelter, a 
thatched lean-to on poles, not much larger than the wardrobe 
trunk she’d brought across the ocean. Behind it he dug a 
small lime pit to serve as a latrine. The actress’s entire ward¬ 
robe and camp equipment was to consist of a burnous to 
cover her nakedness when she got cold at night, or if it rained. 
It was a voluminous, coarse woollen robe with a cowl. No 
bed, no chair, no bunk, no straw, no blanket, no pillow—no 
toilet articles, no books, no cards, no games. She would have, 
said the Master Therion, the sun, moon, stars, sky, sea, the 
universe to read and play with. She was to stay up on that 
rock alone for a month. No one was to go up except a little 
boy who would come quietly to deposit a coarse loaf of bread, 
a bunch of grapes, and a jug of water each night while she 
was sleeping. She told the Master Therion he was crazy. He 
told her there was a boat touching next day at Palermo, and 
that there was her unpacked trunk, and there was the open 
door, and there was a telephone—but that when the boat 
sailed north she’d be sitting up there naked on the rock, watch¬ 
ing it disappear. 

And for a month! 

What an outrageous trick, you say? Let’s look at it a 
minute. Its horrors combined a perfectly balanced frugal diet, 
a rest cure, sun baths, a fresh-air cure, a sojourn by the sea¬ 
side overlooking one of the most beautiful bays on earth. 
She undertook to try it, and did. I have neglected to mention 
that at the end of seven days pencil and paper were to be sent 
up to her by the little boy, so that she could begin keeping a 
diary. The diary was interesting for many reasons. The pro¬ 
gressive steps it shows are perhaps the most interesting thing 
in it: 

During the first days she was nervous, uncomfortable, 
angry, and resentful, but determined to stick it out. Then for 
a while she was just as nervous, but less uncomfortable, no 
longer angry and resentful, but beginning to be bored. 

Then for a number of days she was “ calm, but bored.” 



It was boredom and not the hardship and discomfort, which 
she no longer felt, that tempted her when nineteen days had 
passed to give it up. 

She stuck it out, and during the last ten days experienced 
“ perfect calm, deep joy, renewal of strength and courage.” 
As she put it, she had “ let go of herself ” in New York, and 
had “ gotten hold of herself again ” there on the rock. Also, 
what with the limited diet, self-imposed callisthenics, sun and 
air, she had “ lost sixteen pounds in the right places,” which 
doubtless partially accounted for her “ deep joy.” 

She came down off the rock, remained in the colony for 
the summer, studied principally self-control and the drawing 
on her inner resources and reserve force, went back to Broad¬ 
way, and resumed her career. 

The methods of the Master Therion had savoured of spec¬ 
tacular boloney, but I doubt whether Bill Brown, the late Mul- 
doon, or their most orthodox and expensive prototypes patron¬ 
ized by wealthy ladies could have done a better job. 

Following the death of the young Oxford poet and athlete 
Raoul (Frederick Charles) Loveday, after he had sacrificed a 
cat on the altar of the cult at Cefalu and drunk a cup of its 
blood, the young man’s widow, Betty May Loveday, former 
model, raised a tremendous hullabaloo with the help of the 
British Press, and in the spring of 1923 Aleister Crowley was 
expelled from Italian territory by the Fascisti. He raised a 
counter-hullabaloo with libel suits, but was granted no dam¬ 
ages. Those who have read the Daily Mail , Daily Express, or 
Daily Telegraph may sense a belief on my part that the devil 
is not always as black as he is painted, or, if not that, a desire 
on my part to whitewash him a bit. 

x Rather than use a whitewash brush on the Master Therion, 
since he has always insisted he was a white magician anyway, 
I suggest that the old schoolbook adage De gustibus non est 
disputandum may have a bearing on the cat. I have eaten cat 
in Naples and caterpillars on the Ivory Coast. I have also 
eaten stewed young man. I have drunk the sacrificial blood 
of goats and bulls at voodoo altars. The greatest and noblest 
of the Greeks habitually sacrificed birds, beasts, more rarely 
their daughters, and consulted the steaming entrails. So that 



if Aleister Crowley and his disciple Raoul Loveday, founding 
a new religion, chose to assassinate a stray cat and imbibe its 
lifeblood it seems to me that it was nobody’s business unless 
the Italian S.P.C.A. chose to intervene. And if it made Raoul 
sick afterwards it seems to me, similarly, that it was his own 
private misfortune. 

One can hardly have expected, however, so detached an atti¬ 
tude on the part of his beautiful young model-widow. She 
was known as the “ Tiger-Woman,” and so titled the book she 
wrote about herself in 1929 for Duckworth. As an amateur 
psycho-analyst, I suspect that Betty May was subconsciously 
thinking, “ A tiger is also a cat. Maybe I’d better get out of 
here while the going’s good.” At any rate she ran away, and 
here’s what she tells us in Tiger-Woman about the other cat 
—and about her young husband’s untimely demise: 

The ceremony opened with the solemn entrance of the Mystic 
clad in the gorgeous robes of a Grand Master of the order of 
Freemasons. After he had seated himself on the throne before 
the brazier with the charcoal fire, around which hung the sacri¬ 
ficial knives and swords, the other members of the cult took 
their places on the triangular stools at the points of the star. 
They were dressed as a rule in robes like those in which I first 
saw Leah, with the cowls drawn down over their faces, and only 
their eyes visible through the narrow eye-slits. Clouds of incense 
hung about the room everywhere. When all were assembled, 
the Mystic rose from his seat, and taking one of the swords 
from the side of the brazier, held it pointing towards the altar 
while he intoned an invocation in a language with which I was 
not familiar. From hearing it every day, however, the sounds 
remain fixed in my memory. 

Artay I was Malcooth—Vegabular, 

Vegadura, ee-ar-la—ah moon. 

The last was a high-pitched note in contrast with the rest of 
the chant. Following this, he walked over to Raoul, rested the 
point of the sword on his forehead, and uttered a further rigma¬ 
role, finishing up with a loud shriek of “ Adonis,” which was 
the name by which my husband was known in the abbey. 
Then he went through the identical performance in front of 
Leah, except that to begin with he stood silently in front of 
her for a full minute, breathing deeply the while—breathing in 
the soul of his priestess, as Raoul explained it to me afterwards. 

These preliminary invocations done, the Mystic proceeded 
to execute a variety of ecstatic dances. This was both impres- 


i8 3 

sive and ludicrous. He lashed himself into an absolute frenzy, 
brandishing his sword, and dancing and leaping about in the 
magic circle. His eyes blazed. The words he chanted had a 
compelling monotonous and exotic rhythm, and his eyes were 
alight with fanatical enthusiasm. Every Friday night there 
was a special invocation to Pan, in which, as is shown by the 
hymn for these occasions, the doctrine of the cult became mani¬ 
fest. It was written in English, and I will quote the first few 

Thrill with lissom lust of the light, 

O Man, my Man; 

Come careening out of the night 
To me, to me; 

Come with Apollo in bridal dress. .. . 

On the evening of the sacrifice 

everybody took their accustomed position, except that for this 
occasion Raoul, as he was to be the executioner, changed places 
with the Mystic. The cat was brought out and placed, still in 
the sack, on the altar. The opening of the rite was the same 
as the [ceremony of] Pentagram, which I have already des¬ 
cribed. The air was thick with incense. Raoul recited the invo¬ 
cation, and walked with upraised sword towards Leah and the 
others and placed its point on their brows while he uttered the 
usual formula. I sat outside the magic circle and watched the 
gruesome performance. 

Presently, when much of the ceremony had been gone 
through, I saw Raoul take a kukri [Gurkha knife] from its 
place by the brazier and approach the altar, on which was the 
squirming sack. He untied it, drew forth the struggling and 
terrified Mischette by the scruff of the neck, and held her with 
his left hand at arm’s-length above his head. In his right he 
held the kukri with its point towards the brazier. The Mystic 
stilled Mischette’s struggles by applying a dab of ether to her 
nose. All was now ready for the sacrificial invocation, which 
Raoul had written specially for the occasion, and which he now 
had to recite in the fatiguing posture that I have described. 

It was a long invocation, and before it was half done I could 
see his left arm quiver with the strain. As he approached the 
point where the killing was to take place Leah stepped down 
from her triangular stool, and taking a bowl from the altar, 
held it underneath Mischette to catch the blood, none of which 
is supposed to be lost. At last the moment had arrived. I saw 
him lift back the kukri, and then closed my eyes till it should 
be over. . . . Then swaying slightly, he laid the carcass on the 
altar. This done, his resources were exhausted, and the Mystic 
had to take over the conducting of the ceremony. 



Having concluded the invocation, he took the bowl contain¬ 
ing the blood, uttered some consecratory formula over it and 
handed it to Leah, who was standing by. Together they ap¬ 
proached Raoul. The Mystic then flung back the cowl from 
Raoul’s face, and dipping a finger in the blood, traced the sign 
of the Pentagram on his white, glistening forehead, and so to 
all the others, himself last. 

The final rite . . . now alone remained to be performed. . . . 
The Mystic took a small silver cup, into which he scooped 
some of the blood from the bowl and handed it to my husband, 
who drained it to the dregs. 

For a time I was convinced that Raoul had been poisoned 
by the blood of Mischette. But when he got steadily worse and 
a doctor was summoned I found out that he was suffering from 
enteric, a not uncommon disease in those parts . 1 

It is quite understandable, if you know the British, that the 
reported pentagrammed 2 shindigs of these two British gentle¬ 
men, one of whom was a Cambridge Honours man and the 
other an Oxonian, were somewhat shocking to the learned 
judges who heard the libel suits brought by the Master 
Therion, and who concurred fervently with the juries which 
refused to grant Mr Crowley so much even as a farthing in 

Quoting from The Times of April 14, 1934: 

His Lordship, in directing the jury, said that he had never 
heard such dreadful, horrible, blasphemous, and abominable 
stuff as that which had been produced by the man who des¬ 
cribed himself as the greatest living poet. 

Said Mr Justice Swift on the same day, from the bench, 
“ I have been more than forty years engaged in the administra¬ 
tion of the law in one capacity or another. I thought I knew of 
every conceivable form of wickedness. I thought that every¬ 
thing which was vicious and bad had been produced at one 
time or another before me. I have learned in this case that 
you can always learn something more if you live long enough.” 

Mr Crowley got no satisfaction from the courts, but had the 
subsequent fun of predicting the present world war, and of 
suggesting that if the courts and British public had been more 
sympathetic to him the catastrophe might have been averted. 

1 By permission of the author and publishers, Messrs Gerald Duckworth 
and Co., Ltd. 

3 See Appendix, pp. 275-276. 


According to the Daily Express of December 23, 1937, portions 
of a prophetic book of Aleister Crowley’s 

were read at Cleopatra’s Needle, at 6.22 a.m., as the sun entered 
Capricornus, by an Englishman, a Jew, a Negro, and a Mal¬ 
ayan. There was a short speech by Crowley, as Priest of the 
Princes. He proclaimed the law of Thelema, and handed copies 
to the white, red, brown, black, and yellow representatives. He 
stated that he had published three times, and that each time 
war broke out nine months later; that “ the might of this 
magick burst out and caused a catastrophe to civilization.” He 
said that if everybody would do what he told them the catas¬ 
trophe could be averted. 

He missed it a little on his timing. But it came. War, as 
Nostradamus knew, is always a safe bet for prophets. Old 
Nostradamus, who was a great medieval magician in St Remy, 
wrote a book of prophecy, Centuries , which was recently re¬ 
printed in a popular edition and became again a best-seller 
in Paris. 1 

I am possibly too casual, but feel that the British in general, 
apart from Nina Hamnett’s treatment of him in Laughing 
Torso, have been a bit heavy in their attitude towards the 
Master Therion. If he had been an American I can’t help feel¬ 
ing that we’d have had more fun with him. As a matter of 
fact we did, while he was with us. I saw him last in Paris in 
1933. We lunched, at his invitation, at Foyot’s. He was still 
having a good deal of fun with the world. 

1 See Appendix, pp. 276, 280. 

Chapter IV 

Upton Sinclair’s “Mental Radio” 

/"\F all the experiments in telepathy outside cold laboratories 
on the one hand, and outside spook-ridden seance cabinets 
on the other, the ones which seem to me most worthy of 
general interest are those conducted, in their own homes in 
Pasadena, California, by Upton Sinclair and his wife, Mary 
Craig Sinclair. I visited them several years ago, had many talks 
with them, and came away deeply impressed. While I remain 
respectfully dubious concerning the whole subject of extra¬ 
sensory perception, I feel that what the Sinclairs have accom¬ 
plished is more important, perhaps, than anything which has 
yet occurred at Duke. 

Without ever ‘ turning on the heat ’ in the way my Tripo¬ 
litan dervishes did, they have operated on the dervish theory 
that the ‘ blanking ’ out of the sensory clutter which streams 
in continually through all our five normal senses plus the uti¬ 
lization of autosuggestion are the preliminary essentials to 
establishing contact with extra-sensory impressions. They 
have worked on the assumption, as Professor William Mc- 
Dougall said, that “ if the faint and unusual telepathic pro¬ 
cesses are to manifest themselves, the track of the mind must 
be kept clear of other traffic.” And, without wishing to be too 
insistent in my partisanship for dervish practices as opposed 
to casual guessing games, I cannot help feeling that there is a 
parallel between the physical condition in which Mary Craig 
Sinclair chanced to be when she first became an adept and 
the physical conditions which the dervishes deliberately in¬ 
duce as a preliminary step towards supernormal vision. In the 
prime of life she suffered a long and painful physical illness. 
It was, her husband writes, “ a story of suffering needless to 
go into: suffice it that she had many ills to experiment upon, 
and mental control became suddenly a matter of life and 
death. ... If she now believes anything, rest assured that 
it is because she has tried it out in the crucibles of pain. . . .” 




The heat, in that sense, had been ‘ turned on ’ by fate during 
the period when Mary Craig began to learn and employ the 
technique of detachment which produced the astonishing 
results told by Mr Sinclair in Mental Radio , 1 with an intro¬ 
duction by Professor William McDougall, then at Duke 

Before going into the phenomena I want to present, with 
the permission of Upton Sinclair and his publishers, and from 
Mary Craig Sinclair’s own statement, the approach she used 
and the technique she employed in unlocking the ‘ door ’ be¬ 
yond which lies, perhaps, the answer to a great mystery. 

To what extent she was influenced by her wide reading of 
the Sufi and Melewi mystics I do not know, but her concept 
of the nature of concentration is identical with theirs. “ The 
first thing you have to do,” she says, “ is to learn the trick of 
undivided attention.” By that she means what the Melewi 
mean, and not at all what we mean when we talk ordinarily 
of concentrating. 

One ‘concentrates’ [in our ordinary sense] on writing a 
chapter in a book, or on solving a problem in mathematics; but 
this [ sort of concentration] is a complicated process of dividing 
one’s attention, giving it to one detail after another, judging, 
balancing, making decisions. The kind of concentration I 
mean is putting the attention on one object, or one uncom¬ 
plicated thought, . . . and holding it there steadily. It isn’t 
thinking; it is inhibiting thought, except for one thought, or 
one object in thought. 

You have to inhibit the impulse to think things about the 
object, to examine it, or appraise it, or to allow memory-trains 
to attach themselves to it. The average person has never heard 
of such a form of concentration. . . . 

The attention must never stray to the sensations of the body. 
To concentrate in this undivided way you implant in yourself 
the ‘ suggestion ’ that you will relax your mind and your body, 
making the body insensitive and the mind a blank. . . . You 
must relax completely your mental hold of, or awareness of, 
all bodily sensation. 2 

All this, Mrs Sinclair points out, is hard work, and I think 
she is also aware of its dangers when carried too far, because 

1 Published by Messrs T. Werner Laurie, Ltd. 

2 See Appendix, pp. 281-282. 



she explains that you must reserve the power to “ break ” the 
concentration. This involves the seeming paradox of com¬ 
pletely “ letting go/’ yet at the same time “ holding on.” Pain, 
she says, is tension, and pain can be inhibited by autosugges¬ 
tion. Drop your body, a dead weight, from your conscious 
mind. Make your conscious mind a blank. It is the mind, 
conscious or subconscious, which holds the body tense. And 
to make the conscious mind a blank it is necessary to let go 
of the body. If, after you have practised letting go of the 
body, you find that your mind is not a blank you have not 
succeeded in getting rid of your body. Darkness, either turn¬ 
ing off all the lights, or keeping your eyes closed, or both, is 

Now all this, obviously, is totally different from the casual 
manner in which card-guessing laboratory games are played. 
Professor Morton Prince wrote to Mary Craig, after she had 
learned to ‘ slide ’ completely through the door, as the der¬ 
vishes do, “You are playing with powerful and dangerous 
forces.” Of course she was, but, being a sane, and above all 
good 1 and balanced person, she was able, without sliding too 
far, to bring back from the other side of the ‘ door ’ a series 
of experiences which I believe are the most exciting up to 

Instead of using E.S.P. cards or any other fixed, set sym¬ 
bols, the Sinclairs experimented in telepathy (mind-reading) 
with arbitrary pencil drawings. Mr Sinclair, or one of their 
close friends, would make, with pen or pencil, a rough sketch 
of some object, real or imaginary, which might be anything. 
The one who had drawn it would then sit and concentrate on 
it, and Mary Craig Sinclair, lying elsewhere in the dark, would 
try to ‘ see,’ and then describe, or reproduce with a drawing 
of her own, what she had ‘ seen.’ 

Some of the results are so astonishing that I find myself in 
difficulties in continuing to confess that even these Sinclair 
phenomena, which I regard as the best yet produced in 
America, or perhaps anywhere, by reputable and rational 
people in our own Western world, still leave me bewildered 

1 I am profoundly convinced that essential goodness is the sole protec¬ 
tion against encountering horror and possible destruction on the other side 
of that dubious and mysterious ‘ door.’ 



and in doubt. I know of no possible way to interpret them, 
and can suggest none, other than by accepting it as a fact that 
extra-sensory thought transference (and in certain instances 
clairvoyance too) did actually occur. 

Some of the Sinclair phenomena, while simple and dealing 
with simple things, almost as childish as parlour games, are 
nevertheless loaded with terrific implications. 

As for instance: 

On the morning of July 13, 1928, Robert L. Irwin, a young 
business-man, was sitting in a room of his house in Pasadena, 
at the prearranged hour of half-past eleven. He had agreed to 
make a drawing of any object he might select at random, and 
then to sit gazing at it, concentrating his entire attention upon 
it, for a period of from fifteen to twenty minutes. With a lead 
pencil on a sheet of paper he drew the crude, simple outlines 
of an ordinary table fork. 1 

At the same agreed hour Mary Craig Sinclair was lying on 
her couch in a study, in the Sinclairs’ seaside house at Long 
Beach, forty miles away. She was in semi-darkness, with her 
eyes closed, employing the concentration method I have par¬ 
tially described. Having become satisfied, as Mr Sinclair re¬ 
cords, that the image which came to her mind was the cor¬ 
rect one—because it persisted, and came back again and again 
—she sat up and took pencil and paper, and wrote: “ See a 
table fork. Nothing else.” 

Two days later the Sinclairs drove to Pasadena, where the 
drawing and writing were produced and compared. They 
were all so excited about it that Mr Irwin and Mary Craig 
made affidavits, which are on file. They might as well have 
been a set of affidavits about the virgin birth of Our Lord 
and Saviour Jesus Christ. Affidavits in this realm are even 
more absurd than those you sign when you turn in your 
income-tax report. People either believe it or they don’t. I 
believe this happened, in exactly the way they tell it—or that 
they think it did—because I know the Sinclairs. Lie has what 
are to me fantastic ideas about a lot of things, other than extra¬ 
sensory perception. But he never cheats. Nor do any of the 
people connected with those drawings. 

1 See Appendix, pp. 283-285, for this and other drawings, reproduced by 
permission of Upton Sinclair and Messrs T. Werner Laurie, Ltd. 



One evening Upton Sinclair sat in his study and made a 
pencil drawing of a six-pointed star such as children cut out 
of gilt paper and paste on paper hats. He was alone, with the 
door closed before the drawing was made, and it was not 
opened until the test was concluded. He held it before him, 
and concentrated on it for a period of ten minutes. His wife, 
who was lying on a couch in a different part of the house, 
with closed doors and walls between them, made five or six 
drawings, all of which had the geometric essence of the star, or 
one of its parts or attributes—and finally drew the star. 

The cases in which the original drawings were misunder¬ 
stood and distorted by Mary Craig seem to me more astound¬ 
ing than those in which she clearly identified the fork (or 
whatever it chanced to be). 

The upside-down foot of a boy on roller skates, who had 
presumably fallen sprawling, which had been drawn deliber¬ 
ately to confuse and puzzle Mary Craig, underwent a weird 
transformation. She drew the upside-down leg and shoe as the 
neck and head of a queer animal, with the wheels of the roller 
skate as eyes! There was a general similarity of outline, as 
of something seen “ through a glass, darkly,” which is more 
disturbing to me as a sceptic than a clearer sketch would have 

In 290 drawings the total of complete successes was 65 (or 
about 22 per cent.), but the total of partial successes was 155 
(or about 53 per cent.). The total of complete failures was 70 
(or about 24 per cent.). 

What puzzles and interests me most is the amazing recur¬ 
rent partial successes. 

One day, in circumstances similar to the case of the table 
fork, Robert Irwin, who was the husband of Mary Craig’s 
younger sister and consequently related to them all by mar¬ 
riage but not by blood, drew a crude, full-face view of his 
open-faced watcli. What Mary Craig drew was the crude, full- 
face view of a flat flower, like a Japanese chrysanthemum, with 
crude, separated petals, enclosed in a circle. She was worried 
about it, and wrote on her drawing, “ I think it is not flower 
but wire (metal, shining). The ‘ petals ’ are not petals but wire, 
and should be uniform. ... I see no flower but shape of one on 
paper. Then decide it is of wire, but this may be merely be- 



cause I see drawing, which would have no flower colour. How¬ 
ever, I see it shining as if it is metal. . . .” She never guessed 
it was a watch. 

Sinclair once drew the head of a comic Bolshevik with wild 
hair and whiskers. What she drew, after long struggle, was 
a sunrise or sunset, behind a mountain peak, in which the 
pencilled rays of the sun made lines similar to the Bolshevik’s 
wild hair and whiskers. 

Once the pedals on a harp became a pair of feet in slippers, 
with the outline of the harp mistaken for a woman’s flaring 
skirt above them. 

The most disturbing case of all occurred in connexion with 
an attempt in which Irwin had taken a pair of compasses and 
drawn a simple circle. It is necessary to explain that Mr 
Irwin was physically ill. Some years previous the doctors had 
given him only a few months to live, on account of tubercu¬ 
losis. I’d better quote Mr Sinclair direct in this case. It was 
“ the most sensational of all,” he says. 

I have to ask your pardon for the medical details involved. 
So much vital knowledge hangs upon these tests that I have 
asked my brother-in-law to forget his personal feelings. The 
reader will please consider himself a medical student or hospital 
nurse for the moment. 

The test occurred July 11, 1928. My wife made her drawing 
(in which she endeavoured by telepathy to reproduce whatever 
drawing Irwin had made), and then told me about the matter 
at once. Also she wrote out all the details and the record is 
now before me. She saw a feather, then a flower spray, and 
then she heard a scream. Her first thought in case of illness or 
danger is her aged parents, and she took it for her mother’s 
voice, and this so excited her that she lost interest in the experi¬ 
ment. But soon she concentrated again, and drew a series of 
concentric circles, with a heavy black spot in the centre. Then 
she saw another and much larger spot, and this began to spread 
and cover the sheet of paper. At the same time came a feeling 
of intense depression, and Craig decided that the black spot 
was blood, and that Bob had had a haemorrhage. . . . 

Bob’s wife drove him to our home, and in the presence of 
all four of us he produced the drawing he had made. He had 
taken a compass and drawn a large circle; making, of course, 
a hole in the centre of the paper. “ Is that all you thought of 
during the time? ” asked my wife. “No,” said Bob, “but I’d 
hate to have you get the rest of it.” “ What was it? ” “ Well, 
I discovered that I had a haemorrhoid, and I couldn’t put my 



mind on anything else but the thought, “ My God, my lungs 
—my kidneys—and now this! * ” 

A haemorrhoid is, of course, apt to be accompanied by a 
haemorrhage; and it seems clear that my wife got the mood of 
depression of her brother-in-law, his thoughts of blood and 
bodily breakdown, as well as the circle and the hole in the 
paper. ... I do not see how there could possibly be more con¬ 
clusive evidence of telepathic influence—unless you suspect all 
four of us of a series of stupid and senseless falsehoods. . . . 
The comment written by my wife (on her own drawing at 
the time she made it) reads: “ All this dark like a stain—feel 
it is blood; that Bob is ill—more than usual.” 

The experiments conducted with Mr Irwin were discon¬ 
tinued because it was soon discovered that, in his bad health, 
they were too much of a strain on him. The Sinclairs kept on 
experimenting. They never permitted the astonishing results 
to upset or derange their normal, busy, active outside lives, 
but when it became generally known that this famous couple 
were interested in extra-sensory and supernormal phenomena 
it naturally attracted to their home numbers of ‘adepts,’ 
practitioners, mediums, as well as occasional visitors like my¬ 
self who were interested not only in this field, but in its varied 

It was there I first met Bishop Arthur A. Ford, head of the 
General Assembly of Spiritualist Churches in America, some¬ 
time head of the Organized Spiritualist Churches of the 
world, and frequently referred to in public print as the “ Pope ” 
of the Spiritualists. 1 Ford had had a lot of front-page publicity 
in connexion with his unsuccessful efforts to establish contact 
with the ghost of the late Houdini. He was now on his way 
to help reorganize the Spiritualist churches in Australia, and, 
like myself, was visiting the Sinclairs in Pasadena. The Sin¬ 
clairs were not spiritualists—and have never been—but were 
interested in Mr Ford, and were wondering, as I have often 
wondered, whether or not some of the phenomena which 
occur in spiritualist seances and meetings may not be attribu¬ 
table to telepathy among the living rather than to communica¬ 
tion with the dead. On any other assumption the case for the 
spiritualists, in my opinion, is so completely minus zero and 
has been so completely shot to pieces in hundreds of investi- 

1 See Appendix, pp. 282, 286-289. 



gations that it would be useless to rehash it in this volume. 
My enthusiasm for the experiments conducted by the Sinclairs, 
and my needless-to-state conviction of their obvious sincerity, 
did not include or extend to Bishop Ford and his spiritualists, 
a number of whose meetings I attended in Los Angeles. 

Nor did my credulity or sympathies extend to a Polish 
gentleman by the name of Ostaja, whom I met subsequently 
through the Sinclairs, and who had been for a time a protege 
of theirs. 

Mr Sinclair writes with more tolerance than I could com¬ 
mand of their earlier association with this extraordinary young 
man, who had studied for a while in India. He had a habit of 
having himself buried in yellow silk pyjamas, and subse¬ 
quently dug up, all over California, preferably with the Press 
and newsreels present, and one night, after the Sinclairs had 
dug him up and invited him to dinner, it seems he had a 
heavy table, spook-controlled, floating precariously in the air 
over Upton Sinclair’s head. I shouldn’t have liked it. The 
spooks might have dropped it on Sinclair. And if they had 
it would have blotted out more and better brains than are 
possessed by all the fakirs from Tibet to Timbuktu. Here’s 
Mr Sinclair’s kindly account of it: 

In our home he gave what appeared to be a demonstration of 
levitation without contact. I do not say that it really was levi¬ 
tation; I merely say that our friends who witnessed it . . . 
were unable even to suggest a normal method by which the 
event could have happened. There was no one present who 
could have been a confederate, and the psychic had been 
searched for apparatus; it was in our home, where he had no 
opportunity whatever for preparation. His wrists and ankles 
were firmly held by persons whom I know well; and there was 
sufficient light in the room so that I could see the outline of 
his figure, slumped in a chair. Under these circumstances a 
34-pound table rose four feet into the air and moved slowly 
a distance of eight feet over my head. 

Mr Sinclair gently adds, “ We saw this; our friends saw it; 
yet, in my mind, and likewise in theirs, the worm of doubt 
would always creep in.” 

In my mind that worm of doubt is a full-sized boa con¬ 




According to Mr Sinclair’s narrative, this young man Ostaja, 
whom he refers to as Jan, 

was a peculiar person. Sometimes he would be open and frank, 
and again he would be mysterious and secretive. At one time 
he would agree to teach us all he knew, and again he would 
hold on to his arts, which he had had to go all the way to India 
to get. Was it that he considered these forces too dangerous 
for amateurs to play with? Or was it merely that he was con¬ 
sidering his means of livelihood? 

asks the always kindly Mr Sinclair. What I can’t help won¬ 
dering unkindly is whether he wasn’t afraid the worm of 
doubt would turn into the boa constrictor right there in that 
mild and friendly domicile. 

Jan, it seems, was among other things a hypnotist, and in 
this field Mary Craig, who was a bit of an amateur hypnotist 
herself, and a bit of a ‘ white witch ’ too in the best connota¬ 
tion of the Tennysonian phrase, took delight in occasionally 
making a monkey out of him. One day when he was staring 
at her, making passes with his hands, and trying to hypnotize 
her, Mary Craig, instead of going docilely to sleep, stared 

An essential part of Jan’s technique, says Mr Sinclair, as 
Jan explained it, “ was in outstaring the patient and never 
blinking his eyes. Now suddenly he blinked; then he closed 
his eyes and kept them closed. ‘ Do your eyes hurt? ’ asked 
his patient, in pretended innocence. ‘ No,’ he replied. ‘ Are 
you tired? ’ she asked. ‘ No, thank you,’ said he. ‘ What was 
I thinking? ’ she asked. ‘ To hypnotize me,’ he replied, 
sleepily.” Now she closed her own eyes and willed that Jan 
should get up and go to the telephone. Jan opened his a little, 
and, seeing hers closed, said, “ Shall I go on treating you? ” 
“ Yes, please,” she replied. But Jan hesitated, and then said, 
“ Excuse me, I have to telephone a friend! ” 

However Mary Craig may have done it, the hypnotist was 
hoist with his own petard. Mr Sinclair writes of these adven¬ 
tures in Mental Radio . He protects himself by saying “ these 
stories of Jan . . . are the strangest, and the least capable of 
proof,” and then generously recounts a good many which indi¬ 
cate that the young man did possess extraordinary powers. 



Those I naturally like best, however, are accounts of the 
numerous duels which took place between this Master of the 
Esoteric from the East and his sometime “ apprentice sor¬ 

Says Mr Sinclair: 

Jan goes into one of his deep states—a cataleptic trance, he 
calls it—in which his body is rigid and cold. He has the power 
to fix in advance the time when he will come out of the trance, 
and his subconscious mind apparently possesses the power to 
keep track of time—days, hours, minutes, even seconds. I have 
seen him amaze a group of scientists by coming out on the 
second, while they held stop-watches on him. 

But now my wife thinks she will vary this procedure. Jan 
goes into the trance in our home and Craig sits and silently 
wills, “ Your right leg will come out; you will lift it; you will 
put it down again. You will sit erect ”—and so on. Without 
speaking a word, she can make him do whatever she pleases. 

Jan is a “ Continental male,” and Craig sometimes makes 
“ fierce feminist war upon him.” It is the fashion among young 
ladies from the South to tease the men, and Craig has a lot 
of fun from time to time, “ tormenting her psychic instruc¬ 
tor.” The Sinclairs were kinder to Mr Ostaja than I have made 
it appear. They were wonderful to him. But I like to think, 
and am inclined to think, that they were never completely 
‘ sold ’ on him—any more than they were completely sold on 
Bishop Ford and the spiritualists. 

Indeed, they had enough—and maybe too much—which 
was astounding and disturbing in the seemingly supernormal 
powers with which Mary Craig was gifted. 

I can’t help doubting that any complete, controllable, and 
revolutionary power lies behind that door in the wall, but 
something lies behind it, and whatever it is can sometimes 
get out of hand and be dangerous. Upton Sinclair is touching 
lightly on that, I think, despite the surface humour of his 
phrases, when he calls Mary Craig his “ witch-wife.” She is 
a pure ‘ white witch ’ who has never radiated anything except 
kindness—but an evil woman endowed with powers like her¬ 
self, whatever they may be, could have radiated ruin and 
destruction just as surely as ever did the witch of Africa. Mr 
Sinclair has a marvellously illuminating paragraph on this 



point, in which he says, “ She has never tried these experi¬ 
ments with or in the presence of a stranger. . . . She learned 
from her experiments with her sick brother-in-law that the 
agent can send you pain and fear, as well as chairs and table 
forks, and she would certainly not enter lightly into a condi¬ 
tion of rapport with those whom she did not know and trust.” 

The Sinclairs would believe that in my doll duel with the 
notorious Abbe Penhoel I had sent pain and fear to him 
through similar mysterious channels. I cannot quite believe 

Chapter V 

W. E. Woodward, with a Hatpin 
Driven through his Jaws 

B ILL WOODWARD looked like a portly Cupid, shot 
through the head with one of his own darts, and was 
saying, with pleased conviction: 

“ Ii u-u uu a aa! Ii o-i uu a i-ou o-i i a u-i ow. I a ee ou 
aa a aa, aa, ii a ou-a.” 

His wife, Helen Rosen, scared and nervous, but giggling in 
spite of it, said, “ I used to understand baby talk. I guess he 
can’t pronounce his consonants. I think he’s saying it doesn’t 
hurt him at all. He says it only hurt a little, going in and 
coming out. He says he can’t seem to talk at all, and that 
that is a nuisance.” 

“ A i o! ” agreed the famous author, biographer of George 
Washington, General Grant, and Lafayette, lighting a cigar¬ 
ette, which added another star point projecting from his jaws 
like the spokes of a Fourth of July pin wheel—and went over 
to admire himself in the mirror. . .. 

In those days before the depression the old Grosvenor was 
—and pretty nearly still is, I’m told—the most ornately digni¬ 
fied and old-fashionedly impressive apartment house in lower 
Fifth Avenue. And normally Mr W. E. Woodward was as 
dignified as was his domicile. No such shenanigan had ever 
occurred under that old roof before, or probably ever will 
again. But you’ll recall, perhaps, that before Woodward be¬ 
came a biographer he had won considerable celebrity with a 
book entitled Bunk. Deflating stuffed horses and stuffed shirts, 
though generally in a kindly way, has always been one of his 
hobbies. He’d invited a handful of us there that evening, in¬ 
cluding the Upton Sinclairs, Joseph Cragmore, Katie Seabrook 
and myself. We had been invited to meet the Polish gentle¬ 
man named Ostaja who had studied in India among the fakirs, 




and had produced, or so it was said, some extraordinary pheno¬ 
mena in California, whose climate, as the late Cardinal Gib¬ 
bons once charmingly remarked, seems “ peculiarly conducive 
to miracles.” 

There’s something, on the other hand, about the rough cli¬ 
mate of the North Atlantic seaboard, particularly in its metro¬ 
politan areas, which seems on the whole less conducive than 
is California to these subtle phenomena, and on this warm 
autumn evening the Woodwards had the windows open, with 
a fine, salty breeze blowing in from the ocean. 

Mr Ostaja had been striving to please, and the Sinclairs, 
with their deep, friendly, intelligent interest in these matters, 
were inclined to believe he possessed strong, supernormal, 
psychic powers. They may have been right about it. I have 
a profound respect as well as a sincere affection for the Sin¬ 
clairs, and I’m not sure they weren’t right. But whether be¬ 
cause of the unconducive climate, or for other reasons, the 
demonstrations, on the whole, had been inconclusive. That 
doesn’t mean, however, that some of it hadn’t been fascinat¬ 
ing. Professor Cragmore, for instance, while totally indifferent 
so far as I know to mediums and swamis, is passionately fond 
of anything that smacks of old-fashioned parlour games. And 
we’d had some good ones—swami variants of button, button, 
who’s got the button, blind-man’s buff, puss in the corner, with 
Mr Ostaja always in the star role —or in the corner. And on a 
couple of occasions, even before the hatpin episode, the corner 
had been a pretty tight one. 

One of the games was played like this: 

With Mr Ostaja present, and with his knowledge, we agreed 
on the object to be hidden. We chose, at random, a pencil stub 
which chanced to be lying on Bill’s desk. Mr Ostaja picked it 
up and held it fondly for a moment. Then he went out of the 
room, and went down to the other end of the hall, so there 
could be no keyhole peeping or listening to our movements. We 
hid the pencil, in a small table drawer, in the south-east corner 
of the room. Mr Ostaja came back. We all sat about and did 
what we pleased. He stood in the middle of the room, and was 
going to find the pencil. Extra-sensory perception, manifested 
as clairvoyance or telepathy, or both, was going to enable him 
to find the pencil. Since we all knew where it was, he might 



be guided by our thought waves. That would be telepathy. 
Since he knew what it was, he might be able to see it, unaided 
by our thought waves. That would be clairvoyance. Maybe 
both would be operative. 

Mr Ostaja’s performance was brilliant. He moved slowly 
round the room, approaching localities, objects—approaching 
us too where we sat. He would stand rapt in trance-thought or 
whatever it was, studying a vase, or studying one of us. That 
seemed quite proper. The object might, of course, be hidden 
on one of our persons. We talked of other matters or kept 
silent, as we chose. Inside of ten minutes—which is a long time 
in such circumstances—Mr Ostaja was concentrating on the 
corner of the room where the pencil was hidden. At the end 
of about ten minutes more he opened the drawer and took out 
the pencil. We made admiring noises. But Mr Woodward, 
and some of the rest of us too, were unconvinced that any 
extra-sensory hypothesis was necessary. After the polite com¬ 
ments were over, Bill began whittling it down, with Occam's 
celebrated razor. It was super-brilliant, he agreed, but even 
though Mr Ostaja might be sincere in imagining he’d done it 
by telepathy or clairvoyance, we had all known when he was 
getting warm or getting hot or getting cold, and he could have 
been guided to the goal by subtle indications, picked up subtly, 
unconscious perhaps on his part and on ours, but neverthe¬ 
less through the medium of the normal senses. “ Furthermore, 
technically,” said Bill, “ any one of us could have been in 
cahoots with you, and could have guided you by prearranged 
signals. I don’t believe it for an instant. I know it’s not true. 
But it technically could be.” 

Mr Ostaja was not miffed or ungracious. He could do the 
same thing, he assured us, blindfolded and with his ears stuffed 
with cotton wool, stripped over with adhesive tape. Helen led 
him down the corridor and left him, with distance, space, 
heavy walls, and two closed doors between him and the studio. 
We took a little ivory elephant from the mantel and stuffed 
it down behind the cushions of a sofa. Helen was in the room 
when we did this. 

Ostaja was brought back to the centre of the room, looking 
like the bandaged victim of a bombing raid, and we didn’t 
see how he could possibly find the elephant—unless by an 



extra-sensory miracle. It developed, however, that somebody 
must hold his hand. He liked his hand held when he was in 
the dark. Some one must stay beside him, must be with him 
as he moved about, must keep contact with him. “ H’m,” 
whispered Bill, “ I could never do it, and none of you could 
either. I think perhaps I know how it’s done, but you’ve got 
to be good to do it.” 

So Helen held his hand, and we were silent this time, as 
they began to wander slowly round the room, “ like Pelleas and 
Melisande,” whispered somebody. 

It was very brilliant. There was nothing spectacular about 
it. Ostaja wandered about, apparently leading Helen. Helen 
knew the possibilities, with their implications, and was obvi¬ 
ously making a definite effort to let herself be led with com¬ 
plete passivity. She was as passive, I think, as anybody could 
be. But when they were approaching something Ostaja might 
bump into or stumble over she seemed, almost unconsciously, 
to hesitate, ever so little. She let him bump into the object or 
stumble, but just prior to it, it would seem to me, she gave 
the impression of drawing back, if ever so slightly. There was 
almost nothing to see or hear. It went very slowly, but it was 
a brilliant thing, for presently he found the elephant. 

We were almost sorry, all of us, when Woodward said: 

“ I’m sorry. It’s wonderful. I am not impugning Mr Ostaja’s 
sincerity, but I’ve seen John Mulholland do it, at the Dutch 
Treat Club. Houdini used to do it. Ostaja’s done it, and I con¬ 
gratulate him. Maybe there aren’t a dozen people in the world 
who could do it. And on that basis Mr Ostaja is wonderful, 
but no matter how passive Helen tried to make herself, she 
was probably having neuromotor reactions all the time, as he 
got ‘ warmer ’ or ‘ colder,’ as they used to say in button, button, 
and Mr Ostaja, consciously or unconsciously, was registering 
these, by his sensory contact with her. It’s marvellous, but if 
we’re asked to accept it as evidence of anything outside the 
normal senses it leaves me still in doubt.” 

Mr Ostaja, this time, was obviously miffed. The Upton Sin¬ 
clairs, no sponsors of credulity, and the gentlest, kindest people 
I have ever known, were a little miffed too, as among good 
friends, when good friends disagree. Mr Woodward was say¬ 



“ I guess some of us are unreasonably sceptical in our refusal 
to accept the supernormal. But that’s the way I am. I suggest 
that we call it an interesting evening and all adjourn to the 
basement of the Brevoort.” 

“No! Stop! ” said Mr Ostaja, now furious. “You scoff 
at me, you have no faith, you disbelieve! Will you believe, 
perhaps, if I drive a dagger through my head? ” 

“ I beg you not to,” replied our startled host. “ I did not 
know that your sense of honour was so Japanese. Over here 
we don’t feel it necessary to go so far as that. And, besides, 
I don’t keep daggers in the house.” 

“ I have a samurai’s sword,” said Professor Cragmore hope¬ 
fully. “ My apartment’s only half a block away. I’ll be glad 
to run over and get it. . . .” 

The Sinclairs explained hastily that we had misunderstood 
their protege. Mr Ostaja was not threatening suicide. 

Mr Ostaja happily possessed, it seemed, among his other 
supernormal gifts, that of rendering his body immune to pain. 
Wild horses could romp and stomp harmlessly upon his chest 
while he lay supinely rigid and cataleptic. For a motion-picture 
film he had lain in a trance, like a plank or planked shad, as 
rigid and cold as one, with his head on one chair and his heels 
on another while a rock from Alcatraz weighing a hundred 
and fifty pounds had been broken on his tummy with a sledge¬ 
hammer. He could also be screwed in a coffin and buried 
underground, while a ball game, including home runs and 
cheering ad lib., could be played over his grave. 

Unfortunately Mr Woodward had no wild horses handy, 
and the Grosvenor kept no stable. There happened to be no 
rocks or sledge-hammers handy either in the apartment at the 
moment. Cragmore, always helpful, recalled there was an Ital¬ 
ian undertaker in Bleecker Street who stayed open all night, 
and sold coffins as cheaply as twenty-five dollars. “ Lined with 
grey cheesecloth and with stainless nickel-plated handles.” 
Professor Cragmore offered to contribute the twenty-five dol¬ 
lars, and suggested cheerfully that we might plant Mr Ostaja 
in Washington Square. He was on excellent terms with some 
of the bootblacks, so we might even organize the ball game, 
with cheering, next morning. 

Mr Ostaja, however, now completely furious, was bent on 



vindicating himself then and there by driving something 
long and sharp and pointed through his jowls. 

It was in the days when ladies still wore hats, and one of 
them delightedly proffered an extra-long and murderous hat¬ 
pin, adorned with a gold-plated Prussian eagle. It was a War 
souvenir—had been part of an officer’s insignia—and had been 
welded to the hatpin, for a head. The other ladies shivered and 
said, “ Oo! ” Mr Ostaja was steamed up, and really going to 
do it. He was wiping it, as one might a duellist’s rapier, on an 
immaculate silk handkerchief. 

Mr Woodward had been quiet, but I’d noticed him poking 
gingerly with a finger at one of his own healthy, beefy clean¬ 
shaven jowls. 

Suddenly he arose and said: 

“ Now, wait a minute! I apologize to Mr Ostaja. He has 
been very kind, and I haven’t been very gracious about it, so 
I apologize. I think the evening has gone far enough. I think 
we should thank him, and all adjourn to the Brevoort for a 
friendly drink.” 

It’s when Bill Woodward is being most suave and self- 
deprecatory that his friends, and some other people too, have 
learned from experience to lay off. But Mr Ostaja had met 
Mr Woodward only that evening, had not become awfully fond 
of him, and had probably never heard of Mr Woodward’s 
major opus, entitled Bunk. 

So Mr Ostaja replied heroically, “ But I insist. You have 
doubted me, and I insist on showing you.” 

“ Showing us what? ” said Bill. “ If you must insist I may 
as well tell you I don’t believe it would hurt much anyway. 
And I don’t believe it would bleed if anybody did it. So why 
bother to do it? ” 

Mr Ostaja then made his slip. Neither he nor any of us 
knew it was a slip. But he said, with a polite, personal, Polish 

“ I suppose you think anybody could do it? . . .” 

“ I think I could,” replied Bill, mildly as a lamb. “ At any 
rate, I’m going to try.” 

“ You are not,” said Mrs Woodward hastily. But her wifely 
protest was nothing compared to that of Mr Ostaja. He was 
hopping. After about a minute of Alphonse and Gaston farce, 



in reverse English, in which both he and Bill were insisting 
on having the honour, Cragmore said: 

“ Why don’t you get another hatpin and both do it? ” 

Bill said, “ Sit down, all of you.” He took the hatpin, puffed 
his cheeks, opened his mouth like a dying fish, and began 
pushing the hatpin slowly into the flesh. After about five 
inches of it had disappeared laterally, traversing the buccal 
cavity, the cheek on the other side began to bulge slightly out¬ 
ward. The hatpin point came through. He kept pushing it 
until it was sticking out several inches on both sides of his 
head. He smiled, or tried to, and began talking baby talk. 

Mr Ostaja had meanwhile been looking for his hat and 
walking-stick, and presently slipped unobtrusively out of the 

I’ve included this frivolous anecdote on a more or less serious 
subject to show that, while psychic anaesthesia may be an 
authentic phenomenon, it isn’t necessarily always occurring 
when it seems to be. Saints, mystics, dervish adepts, possess 
it, I believe, but seldom demonstrate their power to audiences, 
and never demonstrate it merely for the sake of proving they 
possess it. For all I know, Mr Ostaja may have possessed it. 
I am not denying that he did. But he wasn’t proposing to 
uncork it that night. It’s easier, and often more theatrically 
impressive, to simulate this phenomenon—as in the case of the 
hatpin driven through the jaws, which involves no concentra¬ 
tion strain at all and very slight pain or discomfort—than it is 
to invoke or induce the self-hypnotized state in which St Law¬ 
rence can smile ecstatically while his body—which has become 
merely a body to him—fries and sizzles on the gridiron. 

It’s easier—and more spectacular—to lie comfortably or even 
a little uncomfortably on a bed of spikes than it is to kneel for 
twenty-four hours as frequently did the great St Theresa of 
Avila, or to dangle all night by one wrist as do the Moslem 
saints in Tripoli. 

I tried a fakir’s bed of nails in Turkestan, and it’s even more 
of a phony than the hatpin driven through the jaws. The 
latter takes a little nerve, and hurts a little—but the bed of 
spikes, though it looks terrific, is only slightly more uncom¬ 
fortable than the lumpy bed in my aunt from Hawkinsville’s 



spare room, or the top of the billiard-table in the saloon 
round the corner from her house where I used to sleep off my 
juvenile corn-liquor jags in Georgia. You can try it yourself, 
if they let you—the bed of spikes, I mean—the next time you 
see one in a freak show. You’ll be surprised. I was when I tried 
it on the road to Kashgar. To obtain the honour I paid the 
owner twenty roubles, and to save the fakir’s face let him pro¬ 
claim to the not-at-all-interested onlookers that I was a visiting 

What the bed of spikes adds up to is a super-simple sum in 
arithmetic. If you count the number of nails and guess the 
weight of the fakir you’ll find there are generally several nails 
to each pound avoirdupois of fakir. The nails or spikes are 
never needle-pointed. They’re no more sharply pointed than 
those you buy at any hardware store. Now you can take four 
hardware-store nails—or three, for that matter—and drive 
them through a shingle, and then poise on their points a 
pound of beans wrapped in tissue paper. The nails won’t 
pierce or tear the tissue paper—unless you’ve used Mexican 
jumping beans or push the bag about. It’s as simple as 
that. And that was probably the reason why honest fakirs 
originally invented the bed of spikes as an aid to mystical 
contemplation in the privacy of their own bedrooms, before it 
began to appear in Coney Island side-shows and Oriental 
market-places. The sharp differentiation between a bed of 
nails and a luxury mattress is—that you must lie still on it. 

This was the secret of the celebrated Fakir Blakaman, who 
starred in the Cirque Medrano in Montmartre, in the late 
twenties. He lay on his back on a pile of broken beer bottles, 
while heavy weights were laid upon his chest and while he 
balanced tables with his feet. Tourists imagined the broken 
beer bottles were phony, but they were jagged and real. Blaka¬ 
man, who was a great performer, had learned to keep his back 
and all its muscles motionless. Despite that, his back was 
often pierced with slivers. If he’d moved, shifted, or twitched 
his muscles his back would have been cut into bleeding cat’s 
meat. If the fakir’s bed of nails is an easier stunt than the hat¬ 
pin driven through your jaws the bed of broken beer bottles 
is an infinitely more dangerous and difficult one. 

In recalling the details of the evening years ago at Mr 


Woodward’s I dropped him a line the other day, and here’s 
what he wrote me: 

Dear Willie, 

According to my diary the young man’s name was Ostaja 
(at least, it sounded like that and so I have it spelled), and he 
was a Pole. He was a protege of Upton Sinclair. 

I had never thrust a hatpin through my cheeks before, and 
I did it then just to see if I could. I remember that it made 
Mr Ostaja furious. He thought I was stealing his show, which 
was not at all my intention. 

Since then I have thrust hatpins through my cheeks numbers 
of times. There’s nothing to it; anybody can do it. Just get a 
clean hatpin, which must be very sharp. There’s a slight prick¬ 
ing pain as it goes in through the skin of the right cheek, and 
when it comes out through the skin of the left cheek, but the 
slight pain stops immediately. While the pin is in place you 
can’t move your tongue, or talk, and that is a nuisance. 

Best wishes, 

W. E. W. 

P.S. The date was Sunday, October 21st, 1928. 

The debunking of parlour tricks, whether in New York 
or on the road to Samarkand, doesn’t abrogate the possibility 
that self-induced anaesthesia to bodily pain, stress, and fatigue 
may lead into a fascinating and perhaps important field. The 
control by this method of pain as pain is of doubtful impor¬ 
tance intrinsically, except in rare cases where ordinary seda¬ 
tives or anaesthetics are unavailable. Eastern adepts, indeed, 
consider its only importance to be that of providing one of 
the doors through which the mind (or soul), wrenched free 
from sensory concerns, whether painflil or pleasant, can pass 
through into other realms of contemplation and experience. 
I propose to examine some of those supposed experiences in 
my concluding chapters. 

Chapter VI 

Justine Dervish Dangling 

W HAT Professor Rhine calls “ precognition,” the glimps¬ 
ing of events to come, the glimpsing of future events 
through the current “ slit ” or nick of time, is perhaps the 
most disturbing and exciting of all seemingly extra-sensory 

The young lady I am going to call Justine seemed on rare 
occasions to possess this power, but could apparently evoke 
it only when prolonged fatigue and strain of some sort had 
brought about the separation and detachment of her subjec¬ 
tive self from the sensory envelope of the objective body. 

What happened on these occasions seemed essentially simi¬ 
lar to what had happened to me, under the fortuitous strain 
of fatigue and prolonged loss of sleep, when I succeeded in 
detaching my inner self horn the robot body which had sat 
meanwhile like a zombi at the wheel of Hal Smith’s yawl 
and steered it all night through a storm. Except that where my 
supposed astral self had merely lain unconscious, Justine’s 
seemed, in detaching itself from her wearied robot body, to 
move backward and forward in time-space, to strange and 
sometimes beautiful adventures. The technique I had used 
on the yawl had been taught me by the Melewi dervishes, and 
the technique which I employed habitually with Justine for 
several years is one which the Rufiah, an allied dervish sect 
in Tripoli, has been employing for many centuries. 

We had tried all sorts of fantastic methods, and had finally 
hit on ‘ dervish dangling ’ as the best and least dangerous. In 
Tripoli, in the dervish convents and monasteries of Arabia, 
it’s as normal and respectable as our flagpole sitting at county 
fairs, fasting on Fridays, or kneeling in long meditation in a 
church or chapel. If it seems here to transgress the bounds of 
the bizarre it’s only because we were doing it in New York 
City. I never covered it up—everybody always knows every¬ 
thing anyway—and friends who occasionally did walk in on 




it were violently perturbed on a number of absurd occasions. 
But we both knew what we were about, and we both liked it. 
We were in love with each other, and if we hadn’t enjoyed 
the games we played we’d certainly never have gone to all 
that unselfish trouble for the dubious advancement of general 
knowledge (un-laboratory-controlled in our case, and conse¬ 
quently doubly worthless) in so doubtful a new scientific field 
as extra-sensory perception. 

Our games sometimes risked getting out of hand. But it 
is often when things in this category are on the edge of getting 
out of hand—on the edge of going too far—that they produce 
the most interesting results. 

I shall tell here at the beginning, instead of saving it for 
a later climax, the result of what happened one night when 
the dervish dangling got out of hand through my carelessness 
and catapulted Justine through what seemed to be the slit in 
time to a seeming experience in precognition whose denoue¬ 
ment came many months later in a place three thousand miles 

Justine was on tiptoe that night. I had arranged everything 
with unusual care, because we’d begun early and had a chance 
to let it run, if it ran, for seven or eight hours—even longer. 
We hadn’t got round to inventing the mask yet, so I had 
turned out all the lights, as she preferred, had drawn the velvet 
curtains of the big studio window, so that the room was almost 
in complete darkness. A soft light, less than the softest moon¬ 
light, came from the street outside through the thinner cur¬ 
tains of a smaller window. We had tried it on former occasions 
with one arm, as the Rufiah do—passing one wrist through the 
loop of a soft, heavy rope dangling from a ring in the ceiling 
and then revolving until the rope tightens to give the right 
tension—but she had found it worked better and left her mind 
more free when she was fastened up by both wrists and 
“ stayed put.” This left her helpless as a modern Andromeda 
—too helpless, in fact, because she didn’t like being fussed 
over, or eased, or interfered with. So we had worked out an 
arrangement with the telephone books. On that night all 
three of them—the Manhattan, the Brooklyn, and the Classi¬ 
fied—were solidly under her feet when it began, so that as 
she stood with her wrists fastened above her head she was 



slightly on tiptoe, but with her toes firmly on the ’phone books. 
If the rope sagged, as it sometimes did, or the soft straps round 
her wrists slipped a little, she could push one or more of the 
books out from under her with her toes, without my inter¬ 
ference, to restore the tension. 

Sometimes in a long evening nothing at all would happen, 
and we’d give it up. On other evenings when she went through 
the door she would sometimes tell what was happening in that 
other world in time-space beyond our three-dimensional hori¬ 
zon—if there is any such other world. Just as often she’d 
be silent the whole time, and tell me about it only afterwards, 
if at all. In the near-darkness it frequently took a lot of 
patient waiting. I’ve sometimes gone out and left her alone 
for a whole evening. I might as well have gone out during the 
early part of this evening, for nothing happened until close 
on towards ten o’clock, and then I heard her shuffling the 
’phone books with her toes, pushing one of them out from 
under, as I imagined, to increase the tension a little. 

Soon she began to talk, dreamily at first. She was through 
the door, and was having a lovely time. She seldom went 
through that door into any horror or violence. She was not 
like Nastatia Filipovna. In her trances, or whatever they were, 
she nearly always encountered things that were good and 
beautiful. If there is any such other world beyond our normal 
ken there’s at least one moral-weighted aphorism true there 
as here. Wherever you go you have to take yourself with you. 
It’s only if you have the soul of a werewolf here that you 
will turn into a werewolf, or encounter werewolves, on the 
other side of the door. The things Justine encountered, in 
addition to being beautiful, were also sometimes surprising 
and amusing. She had never been in Europe then, but she 
was wandering along a quay, overlooking a river, and behind 
the quay was an enormous castle or palace. There were 
crowds, street-cars, shops, motor-cars, people on bicycles. I 
thought it might be London as she described with delight the 
things she was glimpsing. She was walking. She stopped to 
look at the little boats that passed in the stream. I wanted to 
ask her what language the street signs were in, what language 
the people in the streets were speaking, but we’d learned that 
such interruptions often short-circuited the contact. As she 



talked on, describing, and exclaiming at the quaintness or 
beauty of the buildings, I got the impression that it wasn t 
London. I wondered if it might be Budapest, or possibly a 
part of old Florence. It was on a big river, and it was lovely 
as she described it. But I wasn’t very excited about it. What¬ 
ever specific city it turned out to be she could easily have 
seen it in newsreels, in photos in the National Geographic, or 
in any casual, forgotten magazine—or perhaps in some old 
book she’d seen as a little girl and long since forgotten with 
her conscious memory. That’s why supposed clairvoyance of 
this or any other sort is difficult to prove or make stand up. 

She turned into a side-street leading away from the quay 
and the river, attracted by the sound of music, and presently 
came to a carnival, with merry-go-rounds, confetti, clowns, 
Ferris wheels, booths, tents. It wasn’t exactly a carnival either. 
There was a menagerie, she said; there were animal cages, 
there was a dancing bear with a pointed hat on its head; there 
were clowns. It was like a circus, only the clowns and animal 
wagons weren’t under the tents. It puzzled her, but she was 
enjoying it. She was seeing one of the big street fairs on the 
Continent—perhaps the Foire de Neuilly. But what if she 
was? She could have seen it first (and consciously forgotten 
about it, while it stuck in her subconscious) in a topical news¬ 
reel—or, for that matter, in a screen play made in Holly¬ 
wood. She went into one of the tents presently to see the 
trained lions. There was a woman lion-tamer on an elevated 
stage behind bars putting a lion through its tricks. Justine 
presently chuckled a little. It was a funny lion. It was an old , 
tired lion, and it looked as if it had been kept in mothballs. 
The lion-tamer was “ cute ” in her boots and red jacket. She 
was pretty. She was pretty, even if she did have peroxided 
hair and too much red paint on her cheeks. Now she was going 
to put her head in the lion’s mouth. Yes, she was lying down 
with the lion. Oo, yes, she did! She’d put her head right inside 
the lion’s enormous mouth. And afterwards the lion had got 
up and yawned. It had come to the front of the cage and 
yawned. “ If that was my lion,” Justine giggled, “ I’d teach it 
to roar.” 

Justine was silent now, in the semi-darkness, for a couple 
of minutes, and then let out a gasp and giggle, and said, “ I 




don’t believe it! It didn’t happen! ” I was wondering what 
she didn’t believe, what didn’t happen, when she burst into 
gales of laughter, and cried: 

“Yes, it did happen! It really did happen! The others 
thought it was a joke first, a part of the show. And I did too. 
But it really happened. That woman in the front row with 
the baby was simply too funny! ” 

Justine had presently left the street fair and was going back 
to her hotel, or wherever she was going in the trance, and had 
taken a taxi. She was still calm, apparently still enjoying her¬ 
self. Her voice was calm, smooth, pleased. I had forgotten, 
almost as completely as she had, the other Justine who had 
been standing all that time with her wrists drawn up above 
her head, there on her tiptoes on the ’phone books. And now, 
in a period of silence, I didn’t like the sound of that other 
Justine’s breathing. And I switched on the light. 

It was nearly two o’clock in the morning, and the last shuf¬ 
fling of the ’phone books, or any other movement, had been 
before io p.m. What she had done had been to push or kick 
all three of the thick ’phone books aside. For more than four 
hours she had dangled there clear of the floor, suspended by 
the wrists, her whole weight hanging by her wrists, with her 
toes swinging nearly two inches clear of the floor. The lips 
from which that always calm, tranquil, amused, and at times 
gay and laughing talk had been streaming were bitten and 
bruised by her own teeth, and her face was contorted as that 
of a girl who weeps when no tears flow. Her eyes were glassy, 
clear, ecstatic, wide open in the light. The light bewildered her, 
but she was still far away. When I lifted her and loosed the 
straps round her wrists she said, “Don’t! Don’t! I’m see¬ 
ing. . . 

I carried her to a couch, made her drink a little brandy, 
and began chafing her wrists. We never quarrelled—but that 
night she was so angry that she threatened never to come 

I said, “ Look at your wrists! They’ll be black and blue to¬ 
morrow, and your thumbs will be numb for a week.” 

She said, “ My thumbs! I thought you were so brave and 
daring, and you tell me my wrists will be black and blue! 
They’re my wrists and my thumbs. Something wonderful was 


21 I 

happening to me. It was different from anything that has 
ever happened before.” 

I said, “ You played a dirty trick on me there in the dark. 
I wouldn’t have done that to you—for four hours. And I 
wouldn’t have let you do it to yourself.. . 

She said, “ You lost your nerve and I’m ashamed of you. 
I tell you this was different,” 

How different, how on the edge of something possibly tre¬ 
mendous if it could ever be controlled—how perhaps actually 
over the edge, Justine had been that night I didn’t know, and 
I still didn’t know the following summer, when more than six 
months had passed, and she was on her first visit to Europe, 
and we were spending a week together in the South of France. 

One afternoon we drove to Avignon, and were walking along 
the quay towards the old bridge, with the Papal Palace on our 
left, when she said: 

“ But this is it! This is where I was that night, the night 
we quarrelled because you brought me back too soon. There’s 
the man on the bicycle, with a derby hat, those three girls 
with shawls, that priest on a bicycle. I remember how funny 
the priest was, in robes, with a beard, on a bicycle... 

I was a little bit scared, and still sceptical. I thought, “ She 
can have seen Avignon without ever being in Europe before. 
The Papal Palace, the quay, the famous bridge, are travelogue 
stock subjects.” And I thought of another point too, which I 
maliciously made. 

“ You never mentioned any priest on a bicycle, or a man 
with a derby hat on a bicycle either.” 

“ Didn’t I, Willie? ” she asked. “ I don’t know what I said 
that night. Did I tell you about the street fair? Listen, you 
can almost hear the music now. The merry-go-round will be 
up that second corner, round another turn, with the tents and 

We made the first turn, and I began to hear the merry-go- 
round, and it gave me gooseflesh. The back of my neck felt 
cold. I was goose pimples all over, and we were holding each 
other’s hands pretty tightly when we walked into that street 
fair. I tried to get a grip on myself; I kept thinking, “ No, it 
can’t be. There’s a fair here every summer, same fair, same 
clowns, same animals, same dancing bear, same lion-tamer. 



She must have seen it in a film somewhere.” I kept telling 
myself she must have seen it in a film somewhere, when we 
came to the lion-tamer’s tent, and went in and sat down. I kept 
telling myself that the lion-tamer is always a little woman in 
boots, red jacket, with peroxided hair, and too much rouge on 
her cheeks. It was always an elderly lion, and she always lay 
down and put her head in its mouth. But did it always yawn, 
as it was doing now? It must have yawned in whatever film 
or travelogue Justine had seen and forgotten. For it was yawn¬ 
ing now. It was surely a part of the act. Justine said, and 
I began to have goose pimples again, “ If it was my lion I’d 
teach it to roar.” 

Then as we sat there she said excitedly, “ It’s going to turn 
now! It’s going to come to the front of the cage and turn its 
back! Yes, it’s going to do it! ” 

“ Do what? ” I asked, and she whispered, “ It’s going to wet 
those people down there in the front row.” 

The front-row benches were six feet away from the barred 
stage, and on a lower level. The great cat lumbered, sidling 
to the front bars, turned, half squatted, and loosed a mighty 
stream of amber liquid, that arced through the air and 
splashed on the clothes and faces of the people in the middle 
of the row down yonder. 

The audience was amazed, then giggling, then shouting with 
joy, and Justine burst into gales of laughter. She clutched 
me and said, “ Watch that woman with the baby! She’s going 
to get up now. . . .” 

The woman, a bareheaded peasant in a black shawl, hold¬ 
ing aloft a wailing brat whose face she was wiping, arose, 
climbed on the bench, and screamed furiously in the Marseil¬ 
lais dialect: 

“ You saw it! I call you to witness! In the face! In the eyes 
of my darling innocent! In the face it pissed! In the face of 
my little Poupoune! For this I paid two francs and fifty 
centimes! ” 

The audience howled and egged her on. I said to Justine, 
“ Could you understand what she said? ” 

Justine said, " No, I couldn’t understand a word of it, either 
time. But it was simply too funny, wasn’t it? I’m glad you’ve 
seen it too.” 



I was more disturbed, perhaps, than I have ever been about 
anything. I was thinking of the * slit ’ in time, of the Einstein 
corollaries, of a phrase written by Columbia University’s 
greatest mathematician, Dr Cassius Jackson Keyser: “ Simul¬ 
taneity of events is relative, not absolute; the sense of time 
is only an imperfect sense of a fourth dimension in space.” 
Yet I was unconvinced. There’s a tenet in philosophic logic 
known as “ Occam’s Razor.” It says, Entia non sunt multi- 
plicanda prseter necessitatem. I thought, “ It can be that this 
whole thing has happened before. It can be a part of the act 
—just as the yawning might be a part of the act—and it can 
have been taught in a film. Or Justine can have read it.” 

Next morning I went and tried to shave the little lion-tamer 
with Occam’s Razor. She thought I was a lawyer, or making 
a complaint, and said I’d better talk with her husband, who 
was the manager of the show. I convinced them that I was a 
journalist, and that all I wanted to know was whether the thing 
had been part of the act—or, if not part of the act, whether 
by chance it had ever happened before. 

“But mon dieu!” they protested, of course it had never 
happened before! They had only bought the old lion in Janu¬ 
ary. They had bought it because it was an old trouper born 
in a cage, born in the show business. 

Had they ever heard of such a thing happening before with 
any lion? 

They laughed. “Not through the bars of the cage! Not 
on the audience! It had been funny, if one hadn’t been 
splashed. Impossible, unexpected things animals did were 
always the funniest. One night with those three performing 

bears at the Medrano-” the woman was saying, and I 


“ Did you work at the Medrano? ” 

“ All my life,” she said proudly. “ This is the first season I 
have ever worked in a street fair.” 

Justine and I had long talks about it, and felt that perhaps 
we were on the edge of something tremendous. We both 
knew that if we could control, even to some slight extent, and 
then focus these glimpses through the slit of time, if that was 
what they really were, we’d soon be having rings on our fingers 



and bells on our toes and elephants to ride on, if we preferred 
elephants to Rolls-Royces. That’s the hell of this whole busi¬ 
ness—that if anybody possessed and could control any phase 
of clairvoyance he could become more powerful than J. P. 
Morgan or the Pope. The fact that nobody ever has used clair¬ 
voyance or precognition with practical effectiveness, whether 
in Duke University or on a mountain-top in Tibet, 1 is the 
strongest evidence to me that extra-sensory perception, if any, 
has never yet been controlled or focused to a degree worth 
getting excited about. 

If Justine, for instance, could ever see and read next year’s 
stock-market page in the New York Herald-Tribune, or next 
week’s or to-morrow mornings, for that matter, she could be 
richer than a maharajah’s maharani before the next sun went 

But whatever fleeting power she possessed, though it came 
flitting back at times, we could never control to the slightest 
extent. And as for focusing it—the only practical thing it ever 
brought us was a barrel of iced fish, once, from Canada. It was 
just like talking with the ghost of Euclid at a mediumistic 
seance, and having the ghost of that great genius tell you that 
a straight line is the shortest distance between two points. It 
was tremendously exciting, but it got you nowhere. 

1 See Appendix, pp. 289-291. 

Chapter VII 

Justine in the Mask 

I T is common knowledge that when certain of the five 
normal senses are dulled or blanked out, whether tempo¬ 
rarily or permanently, other senses in the normal group may 
tend to become more highly sensitive. 1 

Look around you at any audience at a musical recital, or at 
any group listening to chamber music. Numbers of people 
will be listening raptly with their eyes shut. This isn’t always 
a pose, though it lends itself easily to posturing. Many people 
actually hear better with closed eyes or in the dark. 

It is equally common knowledge among people who have, 
for any purpose whatsoever, experimented in such things out¬ 
side laboratories that steps taken in the direction of soothing 
to somnolence, lulling, dulling, blunting, or blanking all five 
of the normal senses to whatever extent may be devised are 
first steps towards inducing extra-sensory receptivity. 

The most commonly known phenomenon in the realm of 
the five ordinary senses is the case of the blind, whose sense 
of touch is nearly always abnormally acute, and whose sense 
of hearing is frequently so. The increased touch sensitivity 
in the blind seems in some cases to extend far beyond the 
actual physical contact with any object, with the fingers or 
with the skin. 

Paul Donahoo, blind attorney, was coroner of Richmond 
County (Atlanta), Georgia. He could tell, could 4 sense ’ in 
some way, indoors and outdoors, whenever he approached to 
within about four feet of any solid object or obstruction. It 
didn’t have to be a massive wall, or an extensive surface, like 
the side of a house, though such heavy and large-surfaced 
obstructions were the easiest. He could always tell when he 

1 The one exception to this rule lies in the close relationship between 
the two allied senses of smell and taste. Apparently these two senses are 
so closely interlocked that when one is dulled both are. But no other two 
of the five senses are thus interrelated. 


2 l6 


was approaching a wall. He could similarly always tell, when 
approaching a door, whether it was closed or open. He could 
nearly always tell, but not infallibly, when he was approach¬ 
ing or passing within four feet or so of a telegraph pole or 

Paul wasn’t interested in clairvoyance or any aspect of the 
supernormal, and didn’t attribute his sensitivity to anything 
mysterious. He was willing to talk about it, however, and I 
learned that, while he couldn’t be certain how he did it, he 
believed it could be explained in terms of hypersensitivity of 
touch, hypersensitivity of hearing—perhaps a combination of 
both. He couldn’t be sure, but believed that he felt, perhaps 
on the skin of his cheeks or hands, perhaps with his whole 
body, some subtle difference in the density of the air on ap¬ 
proaching large, solid objects; or some difference perhaps in 
air vibrations or air currents. That would be the normal sense 
of touch, subtly hypersensitized, but as definitely sensory as 
when you feel a breeze on your cheek—or are hit by a cyclone. 
With reference to his possible hypersensitivity of hearing, he 
thought that perhaps any sounds, even the faintest, which 
happened to be in the air made waves which were interrupted, 
diverted a little, thrown back distorted a little, by their con¬ 
tacts with the solid objects. If this were true it would have 
been the normal sense of hearing, abnormally sensitized—but 
just as definitely sensory as when you go out behind Johnny 
Mack’s barn, and shout, and hear the echo. Dog whistles 
which no normal human ear can hear hadn’t yet been in¬ 
vented. If they had been I’d have liked very much to try one 
on Paul. 

Justine was a wide-awake sort of girl, acute, sensitive, and 
active as a kitten, in full possession of all five of her physical 
senses, and as much a slave to them and their habits as any¬ 
body. She was inclined, indeed, to be a flibbertigibbet. And 
in our experiments, if they can be dignified with that appella¬ 
tion, in the ‘ games ’ we played and fantasies we indulged, she 
soon discovered that being temporarily deprived of this or that 
sense and its attendant habits made the senses which were 
left free more receptive and more interesting. There were days, 
for instance, on which we played the game that she was not 



permitted to use her hands. She was not permitted to touch 
anything whatsoever. If she forgot and picked up something, 
or smoothed her dress, or pushed back her hair, or scratched 
the tip of her nose, I’d tie her hands behind her back for a 
couple of days. We didn’t do it solemnly, in hushed silence, or 
in hiding. We never flaunted it, but we never bothered to 
cover it up much either. With Justine in a loose cape, we 
walked and sat in the park, took taxis, went to cafes and 
theatres. We were never exhibitionistic about it. But we went 
places instead of staying shut up together in the studio. People 
never gave us more than a second glance, didn’t give a hoot in 
hell. Justine was pretty as a picture in those days, poised and 
happy as a child. Nobody interferes with a girl who’s poised 
and happy, not even if the boy friend is jabbing pins into her. 
People suppose that it’s the girl’s own affair. Nobody, not even 
the waiter or the couple at the next table, ever gave more than 
two glances, even if I was holding a glass or spoon to her lips, 
or brushing back her hair. They saw a girl who wasn’t muti¬ 
lated, crippled, or deformed, but who couldn’t use her hands. 
They were correct about that. She couldn’t. They supposed 
that if there had been anything criminal about it we shouldn’t 
have been there in the tea-room of the St Regis enjoying our¬ 
selves. They were correct about that too. We enjoyed it. We 
were a couple of cuckoos, tired of monotony, and making our 
own little play worlds to live in. I confided all of it, in the days 
we were doing it, to my friend Dr A. A. Brill, dean of the 
Freudians in America. He listened with surprised but un¬ 
shocked amusement . . . told me the Greeks had a name for 
it. We needed no dean of the Freudians to tell us that. The 
erotic fun we got out of it was strictly our own business, and 
is of no importance in connexion with certain adventures in 
the field which this book attempts to cover. If I mention that 
angle at all it’s not in the nature of apology, but simply to clear 
the fact that I’m not an ostrich, and am not writing for os¬ 
triches—or for innocents either. There are erotic overtones, 
perverse in their different and more familiar ways, in every 
other page of the daily newspapers, in the Socratic dialogues, 
in Holy Writ, in the Sapphic odes and the Shakespearean 
sonnets. Such overtones are neither here nor there so long as 
they’re not suffocatingly emphasized and harped on. If harped 


on, they are of no interest to anybody but another hippo¬ 
potamus. 1 

One thing which came out of the business with the hands, 
and which may be of general interest, was our discovery of 
the casual, almost unconscious, and generally unnecessary 
tactile contacts the normal person makes with the hands in 
the course of an ordinary day. Without being aware of it, you 
and 99 per cent, of every one you know will be, for instance, 
touching lightly your chin, cheek, forehead, hair, as if brush¬ 
ing away imaginary cobwebs, or as if your own face were a 
kitten which you stroked, ever so lightly and absent-mindedly 
at odd moments. You will be doing this, unless your hands 
are otherwise continually occupied, as in knitting, or rapidly 
typing, or tightening bolts on the Ford conveyer, on an aver¬ 
age of at least a hundred and fifty times a day. You will be 
patting your knee, or fondling your elbow, unnecessarily ad¬ 
justing a detail or fold of your garments, touching or tapping 
the chair arm or table, etc., many hundreds of times in the 
course of the same eighteen hours. All these involve slight, 
generally unconscious sensory impressions—unless you absent- 
mindedly pat a red-hot stove or cake of ice by mistake—and 
this fact helps to explain why the Oriental adepts and Yogis 
remain motionless and numb, like wooden images or plaster 
statues, when endeavouring to induce the detachment from 
the senses which may let extra-sensory perception come in. 

In this game of trying to lull, anaesthetize, or ‘ blank out ’ 
the myriad sensory things which impact unconsciously at the 
rate of perhaps several thousand per second through the sum 
total of the five ordinary senses we tried some experiments 
with sound and hearing, but never got very far with them. 
Paul Morand had given me a box of pink pellets made with 
wax and cotton—then recently invented—to make sleep easier 
when fire-engines pass in the street or your apartment-house 

1 Sacher-Masoch’s Venus in Furs, parts of D. H. Lawrence’s Lady Chat- 
terley’s Lover, Alfred de Musset’s (?) Gamiani, Andre Gide’s Corydon, are 
interesting only to other hippopotami. Women in Love, the Shakespearean 
sonnets, Gide’s Counterfeiters, and Thomas Mann’s Death in Venice, in 
which the cerebral eroticism is not overemphasized or harped on, are of 
lasting interest to everybody. I’ve known some quite attractive hippo¬ 
potami, but this narrative is not for them. 



neighbours are making whoopee after midnight, but they 
merely lulled sound. And, besides, your own ears buzz inside. 
The elder Pulitzer spent thousands of dollars to have a room 
cork-lined and wound with silk, cocooned (walls packed too, 
they say, with mineral wool), but he still heard, or imagined 
he heard, church bells ringing. And even if he didn't hear 
outside sounds it was still a noisy place. His pen sounded like 
cats scratching, and when he dropped a pencil on the rug it 
sounded like a depth charge with a retarded explosion. A 
vacuum is the only thing that will blank sound completely, 
and you can’t live in a vacuum. 

In the field of light waves, sight, and seeing Justine and I 
made better progress, and got a lot of interesting results. If my 
way of defining that field seems tautological it’s because, as 
we soon found out, the field itself is complicated, tricky. Any 
pressure on the closed eyelids makes you see tiny shooting 
stars and rainbows. If you press hard on your eyelids with the 
balls of your thumbs you see the Aurora Borealis and the San 
Francisco fire. And any slight pressure, such as being blind¬ 
folded for a length of time, or wearing the satin sleeping mask 
which has since become popular and is sold in all fashionable 
stores, or merely holding your eyes squinted tight shut pro¬ 
duces tiny recurrent darts and spots of light, or their illusion. 
We tried it in those various ways, indoors and out, and dis¬ 
covered that though only comparative darkness was induced 
Justine’s other faculties already became keener. Her sense of 
smell, her sense of sound, her sense of touch, would tell her 
more than she supposed they normally could. 

She could sit on a bench in Central Park, with her eyes 
squinted shut, on a summer morning, and tell whether it was 
a big dog or a little dog; when it was one man, two men, or 
a man and a woman passing; when it was a baby carriage, 
and when (by smell from a distance of thirty feet if the wind 
wasn’t in the wrong direction) it was the popcorn wagon 
which ran on rubber wheels and made—she said—identically 
the same sound as the baby carriage. 

Indoors we tried a lot of blindfold tricks, but blindfolding 
is tricky, annoying to the subject, bothersome, frequently in¬ 

Justine sometimes kept her eyes closed—was on other occa- 



sions blindfolded—in the dervish-dangling experiments, and 
in others with clairvoyance of some sort or another as their 
objective. But she worked best with her eyes unclosed in 
darkness or near-darkness. What we were after by now was not 
merely the blanking of one sense to increase the acuteness of 
the other senses, but a blanking, or lulling, of all five normal 
senses, to prevent them from interfering with her adventures 
in that other world which was purely subjective, and perhaps 

The mask we finally devised was partly my idea, and partly 
hers. When I later, living in France, permitted the French 
Museum of Natural History to publish, in one of its official 
bulletins, a photograph of Justine wearing it—with a scholarly 
essay concerning its psycho-erotic aspects, written by Michael 
Leiris—people who saw the photo but misunderstood the 
essay thought the devil had invented it. 

After we’d planned it, made a couple of sketches, and de¬ 
cided what we wanted, we went to see the best glove-and- 
leather expert I happened to know—at Abercrombie and 

They were a bit British about it, lifted their eyebrows, since 
it had no precedent, but not too high, since I’d once bought 
a lot of African equipment—and thought it might be done. 
The cost, however, if they did it, what with a mould of the 
young lady’s head to work from, what with trial and probably 
error, might be pretty steep. They weren’t passionately de¬ 
sirous of undertaking it at any price, and suggested that some 
less expensive leather-worker who specialized in theatrical cos¬ 
tuming might be found who could do it just as well, and at 
a lower figure. I took their always excellent advice, and we 
were given the address of an elderly Italian named Sinatra, 
who limped a little and had a shop of his own with half a 
dozen workmen in a converted brownstone house on West 
47th Street, east of Broadway. He was interested, precisely 
because it involved the making of something which had never 
been made before, and in a week or so turned out a beautiful, 
skilled, craftsman-artist’s job. 

It was made, on his advice, of soft, smooth, glac6 kid. We 
experimented first with suede, but (believe it or not) any su£de 
which was soft and light enough proved not to be completely 



lightproof. The smooth leather, on the contrary, was as light¬ 
proof as a sheet of lead. 

The mask covered Justine’s entire head, following all the 
contours of her face, and, when laced tight at the back, fitted 
smoothly and tightly as her own skin. The only opening was 
a slit for the mouth, which followed the lines of her lips, and 
through which she soon learned to breathe, deeply and 

But now that it was done, and she began to wear it, she 
went through periods of hating and fearing it, because it ac¬ 
complished, as she said, too completely the things we’d hoped 
it would. 

Instead of its producing the ordinary effect of blindfolding, 
or of closing the eyes, her eyes, wide open inside it, stared in 
utter blackness. Sense of smell was blanked, since there were 
no holes for the nostrils. Sense of hearing was dulled, and the 
tactile sensitivity of her cheeks (normally feeling warmth, 
coolness, air currents, when a window was opened or closed, 
when she was merely blindfolded) was likewise blanked. It 
shut her off as completely as a conscious mind can ever be 
shut off from everything outside. Often, in what came close 
to panic, she could not tell whether I or anybody was in the 
room at all, whether I might be close beside her, or whether 
I had gone away and left her there totally alone. It was like 
being back, she said, “ in the womb of time.” And it was more 
than she had bargained for. There were times when she hated 
and feared it, and would have torn it off if I hadn’t kept her 
hands always tied or chained, well away from her face and 
head. Eventually she became accustomed to it, gave up fight¬ 
ing it, let it “ take her,” as she said—and ended by liking it. 
She wanted to be in it whenever she could, even when I might 
have to go away and leave her all day alone, as I occasionally 

We now began trying, not very scientifically, but certainly 
with the heat turned on, a series of experiments in the sup¬ 
posed extra-sensory. Rhine’s E.S.P. cards, which have been 
popularized in America as a parlour game with rules, hand¬ 
book, scoring pad, etc., hadn’t yet become generally available; 
we worked often with an ordinary poker pack. I had been told 
by Montague, of Columbia, then president of the American 



Philosophical Association, who had served on some of the 
old Eusapia Palladino committees, that if any person ever 
succeeded in making extra-sensory perception work with accur¬ 
acy and controlled certainty it would revise the whole present 
aspect of the universe and rank in importance with the dis¬ 
coveries of Kepler, Galileo, Copernicus, and Einstein, I kept 
such records as I could, but their sum totals and percentages 
were no more impressive than Rhine’s, or than those which the 
sardonic John Mulholland produced with inanimate equip¬ 
ment borrowed from the International Business Machines 
Corporation . 1 

Most of the time it seemed to me that what Justine was 
doing was the equivalent of pure guessing. And it seems to me 
that this is what the scores, whether high or low, made by 
Rhine’s subjects always seem to be. There were other rare 
occasions when Justine seemed to “ slide over,” as she called 
it, into flashing moments of what seemed actual illumina¬ 
tion, when she seemed to be on sure ground. In those impa¬ 
tient moments she’d name the cards, insisting that she saw 
them. What did she mean by seeing ? It was, she said, like 
closing your eyes in memory, and seeing a familiar face or 
object. In doing that, in thinking of a face, or doorway, or 
landscape, there is no vision in the sense of light impacting on 
the eye, but nevertheless the cerebral image you have is visual. 
She said that when she slid over, and it happened, it was like 
that. And it was an eerie, emotionally if not scientifically 
convincing, experience when she’d sometimes say, “ But I 
see it plainly. It’s the nine of spades, and you’re holding it 

As to whether it was telepathy, clairvoyance, sheer acci¬ 
dent, I don’t yet know. She wasn’t interested in card experi¬ 
ments anyway, and was always impatient with them. I’m not 
sure she wasn’t right in being impatient. 

What Justine enjoyed was the adventures that came spon¬ 
taneously, the subjective experiences, trance visions, or what¬ 
ever they were, when her mind, shut away from contacts with 
the sensory world and consequently freed from it, wandered 
into that other world—which is perhaps really another world 
in some fourth-dimensional region of time and space, or per- 

1 See Appendix, pp. 255-258. 



haps merely a dream world of cloud fantasy built with noth¬ 
ing more than the released imagination. 

Three or four times, in the course of a number of years, 
she slid over again into what seemed to be the field of pre¬ 
cognition—the field which had most excited and interested us 
since the night she had first slid into it and seen the street-fair 
lion. Her glimpses into the future, however, if that is what 
they really were, never brought back anything of serious im¬ 
portance or intrinsic value. She never foresaw the Armistice, 
or the boom, or the depression, or the death of the Pope. It 
was always something intrinsically trivial, usually fantastic, 
puck-like, poltergeist-like, verging on the edge of the unexpec¬ 
tedly comic—as in the case of the absurd lion. 

Another time Justine strolled into fourth-dimensional time- 
space, as it were, the only thing she brought back was a 
barrel of fish. She’d been sitting in the mask all day, crouched, 
in a posture we’d borrowed from Peter Freuchen’s Eskimo 
seers and wizards , 1 with her wrists fastened to her ankles. 
When she began to talk that evening—it was in January—she 
seemed to be shopping in Saks Fifth Avenue, in the summer¬ 
time, with her cousin Lucy. They bought some summer 
clothes. She was talking with Lucy about the heat, and about 
whether they’d walk home or take a taxi. She bought some 
dresses and gewgaws, seemed to be enjoying herself. They 
were going to have an ice-cream soda presently. 

This cousin of hers, Lucy, lived in the East Sixties, in a 
small but la-di-da apartment, with a tiny kitchenette and 
coloured maid who came only in the late afternoon. I’d been 
there a couple of times to tea. That was where they were 
going now, as I gathered from Justine’s chatter with Lucy. 
They were walking a few blocks. It had become cooler, so 
they walked the whole way. Justine was chattering along, 
with the silences filled in, as I imagined, by Lucy, when they 
reached the apartment and were let in by the maid. 

“ What ? ” Justine was saying. “ What did she say had 
come? A barrel of fish! The express man brought it, and it’s 
in the kitchenette ? It must be a joke! I don’t believe it! ” 

There was a spot of silence, and then Justine was shrieking 
with laughter. There was a barrel of fish in the kitchenette, 

1 See Appendix, pp. 291-295. 



it seemed—a small barrel, but a barrel. “Fresh . . . fish! 

. . . Perishable! ” shrieked Justine, still almost inarticulate 
with laughter. 

There was now a prolonged period of silence. Then Justine 
stirred, struggled a little, groaned, whimpered like a baby. 
She had come out of it, or had “ come back/’ or whatever you 
want to call it. The thread of whatever it was had been broken. 

She said, “ Willie . . . are you there? My wrists hurt, and 
my shoulders ache. What time is it? Please let me go now.” 

Late one evening in June Justine was on the telephone, after 
having tried to reach me repeatedly since six o’clock, and said: 

“ I’m at Lucy’s, and the fish are here! They came from 
Canada, and Lucy thinks she can guess who sent them. We’ve 
had the janitor up to open the barrel. It was mostly full of 
salt and ice. He says they’re lake trout and landlocked 

“ Hey,” I said, “ I’m coming around right now.” 

I went and saw the barrel of fish. Lucy heard next day from 
the returned vacationing friend who had sent them. He was 
back in New York. I had never met him, but went to see 
him. He couldn’t understand why I had come to see him. He 
had known Lucy longer than I had; Lucy was his girl, and 
what business was it of mine anyway? 

Why had he sent them? Why did anybody ever do any¬ 
thing? He’d sent them, he said, “ partly on impulse, and partly 
as a joke.” 

Had he ever promised Lucy, or any of her friends, that 
some day he’d send Lucy a barrel of fish? 

Say, what was this? He hadn’t thought of it until after he’d 
caught them, and then he only thought of it because the guide 
had told him it could be done. He wanted to know, finally, if 
the fish had spoiled. 

The fish hadn’t spoiled. I ate some of the salmon, but, 
lovely as it was, it didn’t sit well on my stomach—nor does 
it, to this day, sit any better on my mind. I am fully aware 
that, whereas in the case of the lion there hadn’t been one 
chance in quadrillions of ordinary predictability or of collu¬ 
sion, this barrel of fish was a different kettle of them. If Jus- 



tine, the peroxided lion-tamer, and the angry mother with 
her brat had been mysteriously in transatlantic cahoots it still 
left the whole episode up in the air— because the lion would 
have had to be in on it too . But in this latter case of apparent 
precognition, since we had, of course, told Lucy about it, no¬ 
thing would have been easier than for Lucy and her boy friend 
to play an elaborate joke. They hadn’t done, as a matter of 
fact, but neither I nor anybody nor they themselves on oath 
can prove a negative of that sort, in terms of what the labora¬ 
tories properly demand as proof. There was no presumption 
of control in this case, and I have made no attempt to imply 
any. It’s as wide open as any other—fish story. It was unfor¬ 
tunately the same on the couple of other occasions when she 
seemed again to pass through the door in the wall to step for¬ 
ward in fourth-dimensional time-space. We never again got 
anything as good as the lion. 

These precognition experiences of hers were of extremely 
rare occurrence. They occurred four times in all, in a period 
of more than five years. She had soon begun habitually, and 
seeming to prefer it so, to slide backward instead of forward 
—to slide into the past, in trances which, if authentic, were 
in the field of what Professor Rhine has labelled retrocogni- 
tion. It was in these that Justine revelled, but in these excur¬ 
sions backward, as Rhine so ably points out in New Frontiers 
of the Mind, there is almost never any possibility of control. 
If you’ll follow Dr Rhine’s reasoning closely and tightly you’ll 
see why this is so. 

If it is something out of the past that is known , even though 
it dates back to before the building of the pyramids, there 
is always the possibility that the entranced excursionist, no 
matter how sincere, may have heard it or read it or seen it 
(in pictured illustration, in museums, or on the screen), and 
retained it in the deep well of the unconscious mind. 

If it is something out of the past which is unknown there 
is almost never any way of proving that what he seems to see 
in retrospect ever happened originally. The only way to estab¬ 
lish control in a case of this latter sort would be, for instance, 
for the excursionist to dig up the lost chest of gold or the old 
family plate which, in the vision, he had seen his great-grand- 




father secretly burying. Since neither Justine nor anybody else 
has ever put retrocognition to any practical and profitable 
use of that sort, the whole field is still shrouded in thick fog 
and fox fire. 

It was in these uncontrolled fields and vistas of fog and fox 
fire that Justine generally now wandered when she went 
through the door in the wall. It was there that she liked best 
to wander. It seemed to me that she suffered less strain, that 
she was less torn, experienced less subsequent prostration and 
fatigue, in these excursions backward than she had on the 
rare, violent occasions when she seemed projected into the 
future . 

Wandering in the past, Justine had long adventures—some¬ 
times as commonplace as cooking on an open fire or drawing 
water from a well, sometimes as gorgeous and fantastic as any¬ 
thing in the Thousand and One Nights, but there can be no 
point in this context in relating or embroidering them. For 
reasons Rhine has given, they have no clinical value, and their 
only real value, which lies in the field of art, when they’re 
intrinsically good enough—a field which has nothing to do 
with the general purpose of this present book—is a value 
which has already been amply demonstrated by more than 
one great master. Kipling wrote “ The Brushwood Boy,” Du 
Maurier wrote Peter Ibbetson, Arthur Machen wrote The Hill 
of Dreams, Violet Hunt wrote “ The Coach,” H. G. Wells 
wrote “ The Door in the Wall,” and ninety-seven other great 
ones, including Poe, Ambrose Bierce, Jack London, and Mary 
Austin, have contributed their classic and near-classic tales, 
more than often based on what they believed to be authentic 
experiences. They are all, as a matter of fact, “ door in the 
wall ” stories, and the wall is always the same wall—the wall 
which imprisons all us normal humans in the three-dimen¬ 
sional sensory here and now, which bars us from the fourth¬ 
dimensional field of space-time, familiar to saints, geniuses, 
and mystics long before Einstein gave it a potential scientific 
basis in his Theory of Relativity . 1 

Justine had more joy wandering in that realm than any 

1 “ One of the most beautiful things we can experience is the mysterious. 
It is the source of all true science and art. He who can no longer pause to 
wonder is as good as dead."— Albert Einstein. 



other, but so many have wandered there, and have brought 
back such rich treasures, shared afterwards with the world, 
that if she and I tried to recount all her adventures it would 
be merely bringing more coals to a Newcastle where many of 
the coals have been already polished to the radiance of dia¬ 

Are they really diamonds, or are they merely polished car¬ 
bon? Some people think they know the answer, but I am not 
sure of anything in this realm of the supernormal. I am 
not even sure—I can’t be after Justine’s adventure with the lion 
—of the validity of my own doubts. 




We have a benevolent white witch in Rhinebeck. She is a 
crippled lady who knows what suffering is, and uses her white 
magic to help others. Some little time ago our Rhinebeck Gaz¬ 
ette told about a kindly “ miracle ” that left the recipient puzzled, 
grateful, and amazed. One day, delivering bread, he told the dear 
lady he was suffering from pains in his head. 

When he came back early the following morning she said, “ Well, 
how’s your head now? ” 

He said, “ It still hurts.” 

She said, “ That will be all right. At exactly ten o’clock this 
morning it will stop hurting you entirely.” 

He went his rounds. The pain stopped completely. He looked 
at his watch. It was exactly ten o’clock. The delivery man says, 
“ I don’t know what happened, but I tell you it makes you think.” 

It probably makes you think that I’ve picked up a small-town 
coincidence that doesn’t prove anything. Maybe you won’t be so 
sure when I tell you some facts recently presented by one of 
America’s leading scientific authors, George W. Gray, author of 
The Advancing Front of Science and New World Picture. In 
Harper’s Magazine for May 1939, and condensed in the Reader’s 
Digest of June, he tells of some startling cures accomplished in 
ordinary clinic routine by the employment of white magic in cases 
where the patients, as it were, had hexed themselves. 

A man came into the hospital one day whose arms were pimpled 
with a bothersome skin disease. He told them it always broke out 
worse on Monday mornings. “ What do you do on Sundays? ” 
asked the doctor. Usually, said the patient, he visited a young 
lady. It developed that for some years the couple had been engaged 
but the girl repeatedly postponed naming the wedding day. Each 
Sunday, says Dr Gray, the man pressed for a decision; each Mon¬ 
day was regularly the day after a frustration. And almost every 
Monday his skin protested his anxious state by breaking into 

To the same big Eastern hospital came a man critically ill with 
asthma. After weeks of treatment he was relieved, and a day set 
for his discharge. Suddenly, on the night before his scheduled 
departure, all his former dangerous symptoms returned. Treat¬ 
ment was resumed; again his breathing became free; again 
arrangements were made for the journey, and again asthma re¬ 
turned in full force. He was a college teacher who had become 
embroiled in a faculty fight and feared for his job. Subconsciously 



i 3 2 

he felt it safer to be in the protective walls of a hospital than go 
back and face possible dismissal. 

“ In these cases,” says the author, “ there was more than the 
physical condition. There was a mental or emotional disturbance 
which had its counterpart in the physical mechanism.” 

Dr Erwin Moos reported the case of a man with a systolic blood- 
pressure of 280 who was also afflicted with a lung disorder and 
whose urine showed traces of albumin. Rest and drugs brought no 
help, but one day the patient remarked that he had done a great 
wrong to his estranged wife. The doctor immediately arranged a 
meeting, and after a reconciliation between the two the man’s 
blood-pressure fell to 150, his lung symptoms abated, and the albu¬ 
min disappeared. Several years later the patient was in good health, 
with a blood-pressure of only 130. 

And, mind you, the gentlemen who recount these things are 
neither faith healers nor cranks. These facts are based on hospital 
records. I am bringing them in to make it easier for you to believe 
in my dolls. 

Gray tells of a business-woman who had been highly capable 
in a minor capacity, and who was unexpectedly promoted to an 
executive job. Three months later she developed a severe physical 
ailment. The doctor presently guessed that her increased responsi¬ 
bilities were a source of apprehension. When she was persuaded to 
resign the executive job, for which she was unfitted, and resume 
her old place as an assistant, for which she was admirably fitted, 
the physical ailment disappeared. 

A key to the way black magic and the doll can kill you (i.e., by 
deliberately implanted anxiety and fear) is given, I think, in the 
following scientific analysis in which Gray, in the article I have 
identified above, expresses his conviction that anxiety can actually 
become a biochemical factor as dangerous as bacteria: 

The whole physiology of anxiety is bound up with the idea of 
protection, and has its origins far back in human history. How to 
save one’s skin was a supreme problem of primitive man. Every 
day there was the necessity of taking strong action either in fight¬ 
ing or fleeing. These demands gradually built into the body an 
automatic scheme of swift adjustment for action. 

In time of fear or anger powerful changes go on within the 
body: the heart muscles are stimulated to more rapid pulsations, 
circulation is shifted from the stomach and intestines to the heart, 
brain, lungs, and skeletal muscles—all resources are mobilized for 
most effective fight or flight. The mechanisms of these automatic 
reactions are largely chemical—caused by powerful substances se¬ 
creted by the glands and the nerve endings. And every impres¬ 
sion from the outside world that threatens the security of the in¬ 
dividual, that provokes him to anger or inspires him to fear, 
automatically calls into play this complicated biochemical mech¬ 
anism to prepare the body for action. 



Now the man who has just lost his fortune in a bank failure 
suffers a fear just as real as was the fear of a caveman confronted 
by a wild beast. However, whether the caveman ran, or stood 
and fought, he needed the stronger heartbeat, the change in blood 
distribution. But to the victim of the bankruptcy these adjustments 
are superfluous. They prepare him for action which does not take 
place. They glut his system with powerful substances he does not 
need, and which cause internal conflict. Such conflicts tend to be 
suppressed, but the fact that they are unconscious does not mean 
they are innocuous. Quite the opposite. The poisoning effect of a 
source of anxiety seems to increase in inverse ratio to the victim’s 
awareness of its identity. 

It seems likely that the stresses of life affect one individual dif¬ 
ferently from another because of differences in constitution, in 
relative weakness of certain organs which ordains which shall give 
way rather than others, and in the conditioning experiences of 
early childhood. Dr Leon J. Saul, of the Chicago Institute for 
Psychoanalysis, observes, “ One child may be allowed to express 
his rages quite freely, as compared to another. Later in life he 
will allow himself to become very angry, while the other gets a 
headache. Again, a person who has been overprotected in child¬ 
hood will more readily feel the stress of a highly competitive so¬ 
ciety which demands extreme aggressiveness and independence, 
and such a person will more readily develop symptoms.” The ag¬ 
gressive business-man who has repressed longings for a retreat to 
love, care, and protection often has a tendency to express his hid¬ 
den conflicts in a gastric ulcer. Beneath the surface of a gentle, 
considerate personality, on the other hand, may be hidden a state 
of chronic rage—a repression that frequently expresses itself in 
high blood-pressure. 

The wise physician takes into account all the circumstances. He 
may use drugs, surgery, suggestion, social readjustment, anything 
that will get at the root of the anxiety. He does not treat only 
hearts, lungs, intestines, or kidneys. He treats not only that which 
is sick but also him or her who is sick. Dr Stanley Cobb has said 
that the criterion for calling one disease organic and another func¬ 
tional is artificial, and that the line between physical and mental 
is fictitious. 

We have seen that changes in the ‘ structure ’ of the blood are 
wrought by minute quantities of added substance—adrenalin, for 
instance. Blood may be regarded as a fluid organ. As this circu¬ 
lating organ is changed by slight alterations of its chemical con¬ 
tent, so are the other organs changed as they are bathed by these 
altered fluids. 

Anxiety thus becomes a biochemical factor. Through automatic 
stimulation of secretions it may release materials as upsetting to 
the system as bacteria. 

A. J. Cronin, author of Hatter's Castle and The Citadel , gives 
an account in the Cosmopolitan, July 1939, of a case that will give 
you even more to think about. He presents it in the guise of fiction, 
but I’m guessing it to be based on his own or some colleague’s 

2 34 


actual experience. It concerns a little Cockney barber’s assistant 
whom Dr Cronin calls Jamie in the story, an obliging, kindly, com¬ 
petent little fellow, but “ shy, mild, timid.” Jamie fell in love with 
a pretty girl named Nancy. One evening, some months later, Jamie 
went to see a patron of his, an old-fashioned doctor, a general 
practitioner. Jamie was desperately unhappy because he couldn’t 
get up his nerve to ask Nancy to marry him. 

He had tried whisky to stiffen his nerve, but it hadn’t helped at 
all. The doctor gave Jamie thirty drops of what Jamie believed 
was a mysterious and terrifically powerful drug. Jamie rushed 
out and won the girl. Five years later Jamie returned to his old 
doctor friend in desperation. A big bruiser had moved in on him 
and Nancy, and he didn’t dare to throw the man out. Same dose. 
Jamie rushed home strong as ten tigers and mopped up the bigger 
man. Ingredients of the terrific drug had been water, a drop or two 
of burnt sugar to colour it—and Jamie’s faith. 

It’s the same in reverse with the incantations and spells of the 
black, evil witch and her foul dolls. Perhaps they can’t hurt you 
if you don’t believe in them, but if you believe in them they can 
destroy you. 

Sir Baldwin Spencer, K.C.M.G., F.R.S., Professor Emeritus of 
Biology in the University of Melbourne, sometime Special Com¬ 
missioner for the Government of Australia and Chief Protector of 
Aborigines in the Northern Territory, records a case in which these 
same mysterious forces operated, to kill—and to cure. It concerns 
an Arunta native who was hit by a boomerang, who would have 
surely died if left to the care of modern science, but who recovered 
under treatment of the witch-doctors. It is a common thing for 
these aborigines to charm a weapon by singing over it. I have 
never heard them sing, but Sir Baldwin has heard them, and says 
it’s the same old Mother Goose stuff. In muttered tones the witch¬ 
doctor hisses out the following incantations, endlessly repeated : 

“ 1-ta pukalana purtulinja appinia-a ” (“ May your heart be rent 
asunder ”). 

“ Purtulinja appinaa aintaapa inkirilia quin appani intarpakala- 
a ” (“ May your backbone be split open and your ribs torn asun¬ 
der ”). 

“ Okinchincha quin appinaa ilcha ilchaa-a ” (“ May your head 
and throat be split open ”). 1 

Next, and here is something interesting, if the owner of the 
weapon foresees no immediate chance of meeting his enemy and 
socking him with it, or sticking it into him, but knows in what 
camp his enemy resides, he stealthily approaches that camp until 
the features of his victim are clearly discernible by the firelight. 

1 Sir Baldwin Spencer and the late F. J. Gillen, The Arunta: a Study 
of a Stone Age People (Macmillan and Co., London, 2 vols., 1927). 



He now sits out there in the darkness, points the weapon towards 
his enemy, and repeats the incantations. Within a short time—a 
month at most—the victim is supposed to sicken and die, unless 
his life be saved by the magic of another medicine-man or witch¬ 

When they get into battle, or into whatever their equivalent is 
of a bar-room fight, any spear, club, or boomerang which has been 
sung over is supposed to be endowed with Arungquilta —that is, 
magical poisonous properties—and any native who believes that 
he has been struck by, say, a charmed spear is almost sure to die, 
whether the wound be slight or severe, unless he be saved by 
counter-magic. Says Sir Baldwin, with a lifetime of scholarly 
responsibility, “ There is no doubt whatever that a native will die 
after the infliction of even a most superficial wound if . . . he 
believes the weapon which inflicted the wound had been ‘ sung ’ 
over .” 

If the victim has merely been scratched by a 4 sung ’ spear or 
bumped by a ‘ sung ’ boomerang he simply lies down, refuses food, 
and pines away. Sir Baldwin said in 1927: 

Not long ago a man from Barrow Creek received a slight wound 
in the groin. Though there was apparently nothing serious the 
matter with him, still he persisted in saying that the spear had 
been charmed and that he must die, which accordingly he did in 
the course of a few days. Another man coming down to the Alice 
Springs from the Tennant Creek contracted a slight cold, but the 
local men told him that the members of a group about twelve 
miles away to the east had taken his heart out, and believing this 
to be so, he simply laid himself down and wasted away. In a simi¬ 
lar way a man at Charlotte Waters came to us with a slight spear 
wound in his back. He was assured that the wound was not seri¬ 
ous, and it was dressed in the usual way, but he persisted in say¬ 
ing that the spear had been ‘ sung ’ and that though it could not 
be seen, yet in reality it had broken his back and he was going to 
die, which accordingly he did. 

It is impossible to prove that death would not have followed in 
any circumstances—that is, whether the native had or had not 
imagined the weapon to have been sung—yet, with a knowledge of 
what wounds and injuries he would normally survive if he did not 
suspect the intervention of magic, it is impossible to explain death 
in such circumstances except as associated directly with the firm 
belief of the victim that magic has entered his body, and that 
therefore he must die. 

Boomerang brawls like those in Alice Springs occur frequently 
here in northern Dutchess County. Any which start in Lafayette- 
ville Mrs Lena Grosenbeck is always ready to calm with the sawed- 
off baseball bat she keeps behind the bottles on the bar. Lena taps 
them, and they’re carried out cold to their cars by the state police, 



and wake up feeling not too badly next morning, since Mrs Gros- 
enbeck is not a witch, and they have no superstitious worries. The 
Arunta boy friend, steeped in superstition, who would have died 
unless saved by counter-magic, was smacked by a boomerang 
which inflicted a wound no worse than Lena’s kindly tap. The 
wound was merely a bump on the back of the head, valid only for 
a headache or hang-over such as we survive here after drinking 
Lena’s excellent Scotch, and being smacked maternally by her 
sawed-off baseball bat. 

The trouble was that the chap at Alice Springs was convinced 
that the boomerang that had laid him low was fatal. When he 
woke up next morning he declared that the weapon had been sent 
down by the Ilpirra tribe which lives away to the north of Arunta, 
and that it had been sung by an Ilpirra witch-man. An Arunta 
medicine-man was of no use, but fortunately there was an Ilpirra 
witch-doctor available. He was found, hired, paid, and consented 
to sing the counter-magic. He made passes, sucking and mutter¬ 
ing over the wound. As the witch-doctor belonged to the same 
locality as the man who had originally sung the boomerang, the 
Arunta native had faith, confidence, belief, in the efficacy of the 
counter-magic. Instead of dying, he got well, because he knew he 
would get well. 

Instances of such occurrences, in modern hospital clinics in 
New York, Chicago, London, as well as in the Australian bush, 
could be multiplied to a point which would make this intended- 
to-be-readable appendix an encyclopaedic treatise. 


Chapter II 

Present-day American witchcraft cases occur with steady 
frequency and in pleasing variety at the rate of several dozens a 
year. Here, to begin with, are a few more from the 1939 and 
1940 crop: 

December 11, 1939, World Telegram tells how Salvatore Petruz- 
zella poured salt in the form of a cross before the home of his 
Coney Island neighbour, Alex Colona. It’s one of the oldest and 
supposedly most deadly of the Italian equivalents for the witch’s 
doll. Colona went in terror to the police, who had sense enough 
to arrest the sorcerer. Magistrate Joseph C. H. Flynn found him 
guilty of disorderly conduct. It was testified that many Italians 
believe death will come to a house cursed with salt. Petruzzella 
had been apparently planning a neighbourhood witchcraft mas¬ 
sacre, since he had put salt crosses in front of the houses of several 
enemies. “That kind of stuff doesn’t go in this country,” the 
magistrate said to the plaintiffs. “ Don’t be afraid, I’ll take the 
curse away.” 

November 15, 1939, San Jose (California) Mercury-Herald tells 
how witchcraft entered the jury trial in a seventeen-thousand- 
dollar will contest over the estate of Joseph Botelho before Superior 
Judge Warren Tryon. It was testified that Botelho’s daughter, 
Mary, was believed by the old man to be “ a devil on a cross,” 
which is the Portuguese designation for witch. It was testified that 
the daughter had used her witchcraft to terrorize and influence her 

August 13, 1939, Buffalo Courier Express tells of a druggist who 
had been besieged by people who believed spells had been cast on 
them by witches and begged him to sell them counter-charms. A 
well-dressed woman had come in a new car, had asked to see the 
druggist in private, and had talked to him with tears streaming 
down her face. A woman had put a witch’s curse on her, she was 
getting sicker and sicker, and begged for a charm to break the 
spell. The druggist, who knew something about mental sugges¬ 
tion, sold her for twenty cents a packet of quassia chips, or bitter- 
wood. He told her to brew and drink it, and that when she did 
the curse would be lifted. The druggist explained to the reporter 
that though he believed his action had been slightly non-ethical 
it was nevertheless good psychology. He must have been right, 
because the woman, who had been on the verge of complete col¬ 
lapse and nervous breakdown, came back cured. Another woman, 



a mother, wanted a love charm to save her son from the clutches 
of a “ bad girl,” and threatened suicide unless the druggist sup¬ 
plied it. He gave her some sugar of milk in solution, and again 
the charm worked. Frequently he has calls for mandrake or 
mandragora, but refuses to sell it, although it’s a harmless root, if 
he suspects the customer is superstitious. He knows that man¬ 
dragora is used in the concocting of death spells. 

July 29, 1939, Newark (New Jersey) Ledger tells how a Negro, 
John Baptistalk, accused of witchcraft, was held in bail under 
grand-jury indictment. He had been giving credulous people 
“ magical baths,” and had sent James Elijah to a cemetery at 
midnight to bring back earth from a freshly dug grave. 

July 28, 1939, Riverhead (New York) Weekly News tells how 
Edward Smith, of Huntington, used a milk bottle to break the 
spell cast over him by Melinda Caiman, whom he believed to be 
a witch. He tried to break the spell by breaking a bottle over 
Melinda’s head—which was as good a way as any. 

May 11, 1939, Detroit Free Press revives the famous case of Mrs 
Laura Pichette, who is serving a life term in the House of Correc¬ 
tion for killing a young witch by the name of Marian Doyle. Mrs 
Pichette, the “ witch-killer,” got into the news again by having a 

March 9, 1939, Detroit Free Press tells how Mrs Jacqueline 
Thomas awakens every once in a while in the morning to find her 
body covered with deep, painful scratches supposed to be inflicted 
by the spirit of an Indian medicine-man. Mrs Thomas married a 
full-blooded Indian from the Six Nations’ Reserve at Branford. 
The husband’s grandfather, a mighty pow-wow man, had for¬ 
bidden him to marry into the white race, and the husband is 
convinced that the grandfather’s magic is punishing his wife. 
Doctors have seen the marks and don’t know what causes them. 
Mrs Thomas sleeps alone in a locked room, yet the scratches occur. 
Spiritualist mediums have tried to lay the ghost, and local hospi¬ 
tals have interested themselves in the mystery, which may have 
a similarity to the stigmata cases which still occur in Europe. 

January 1, 1940, New York Times (Associated Press) has a tale 
of witchcraft and hexing from a northern New Mexico mountain 
village, Mora, about twenty-six miles north of Las Vegas: 

R. E. Cooper, assistant district attorney, returned from Mora 
and said that a preliminary hearing was conducted in Justice 
Court there for a man charged with mayhem and accused by 
townsfolk of “ turning himself into a frog ” and “ hexing people.” 

The defendant, Evelion Espinosa, was charged with mutilating 
his wife and cousin, Mrs Amadeo Sisneros, as they slept on 
Christmas night. Mrs Espinosa’s fingers were injured, and Mrs 
Sisneros lost two teeth. 

“ They testified Espinosa acted queerly Christmas night and 
that he made signs on the floor near their beds,” Mr Cooper said. 

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“ They said when he left the house they became frightened and 
locked the door.” 

Mr Cooper quoted Mrs Espinosa as saying that the next morn¬ 
ing “ there was a frog in the room, but it disappeared when I called 
my husband, and he entered another door.” 

Mrs Espinosa testified that, “ If the frog did it, my husband 
couldn’t have.” 

Mr Cooper said that the mountain folk had long accused Es¬ 
pinosa of being “ the man who turns into a frog.” A large crowd 
milled around the courthouse during the hearing. 

Espinosa put up $1000 bond pending District Court hearing. 

January 11, 1940, Denver Post has the following story from 
Pretoria, South Africa: 

Fighting witchcraft will be part of the task of L. F. W. Trol¬ 
lope, who has just been appointed magistrate and native commis¬ 
sioner of the eastern Caprivi Zipfel by the native affairs department 
of the South African Government. 

The duties of Trollope and his assistants are thus described in 
an official statement issued by D. L. Smit, department Minister: 

“ Administer the territory, making full use where possible of 
native institutions to combat the evil of witchcraft.” 

January 31, 1940, New York Herald-Tribune reports that the 
Rev. Josephine Carbone, pastor of the Chapel of Miracles, a Pente¬ 
costal church at 1558 Sixty-ninth Street, Brooklyn, was found 
guilty of grand larceny in the first degree by a jury in King’s 
County Court. Angelo Nicosia, a fifty-nine-year widower, said he 
had paid her $557 on October 25, 1938, to work a miracle and get 
him a new wife. The miracle had not come to pass. The jury 
recommended mercy, and Judge Edwin L. Garvin remanded her 
to the Women’s House of Detention for sentence on February 14. 

On February 20, 1940, in the New York Herald-Tribune, a 
United Press item from Palm Springs, California, tells how a 
young mother, member of a voodoo cult that is alleged to believe 
in human sacrifice, confessed that she killed her five-year-old 
daughter, Geraldine, because the child was “ too good to live.” 

March 21, 1940, New York Sun, under the heading “Jersey 
Extortion Laid to Witchery,” says: 

The police of three New Jersey cities were unravelling to-day 
the fantastic story of a former Ridgefield Park patrolman who, 
Police-Captain August F. Winklemann, of Elizabeth, said, be¬ 
witched a nineteen-year-old girl into aiding him to extort money 
from her employers. 

Winklemann said George Barning had “ hypnotized ” the girl 
into thinking the lives of the whites were in danger. 

More than half the population of the United States believes in 



witchcraft, and every year scores of cases reach the courts and 
newspapers. Here are a few scattered recent ones during the last 
two decades: 

October 2, 1936, in Woodbridge, New Jersey, Mrs Terese Czin- 
kota was accused by neighbours of being a witch and a werewolf. 
The case was heard in Magistrate’s Court before Recorder Arthur 
Brown. The plaintiffs were Mrs Harry Rottenhoffer, Mrs Gertrude 
Mutter, and Mrs Rose Czepeter. Mrs Rottenhoffer told how they 
had looked through a window and seen Mrs Czinkota making 
magic brews and performing witchcraft rituals. One of the women 
testified that “ her body changed, horns appeared on her head, and 
she went on all-fours like an animal.” Another witness swore that 
the witch had only been dressed in the skin of an animal and that 
the horns were merely streams of light. Another said, “ I saw her 
bend down and change into something like a dog.” Another said, 
“ She was on all-fours, dressed in the skin of an animal, and there 
was a blazing stream of fire over her head.” When another witness 
testified also that Mrs Czinkota changed into a horse and walked 
on her hind-legs Recorder Brown threw the case—and the dear 
ladies—out of court. 

February 26, 1935, in Williamsport, Pennsylvania, a young boy 
named John Fritz started carving his baby brother with a butcher’s 
knife. A grey-bearded hex-doctor named Dave Snyder, eighty- 
four years old, was accused of having hexed the boy and making 
him do it. The hex-doctor’s family said he couldn’t read and 
write and consequently couldn’t be familiar with The Long Lost 
Friend or The Seventh Book of Moses, which is also known in 
Pennsylvania as the “Black Art Bible.” The Long Lost Friend , 
first published in German in 1820, is Johann George Hohman’s 
Der Lange Verborgene Freund. It has run to more than fifty edi¬ 
tions, and enjoys an enormous sale in America. 

April 10,1931, in Wilkes-Barre, Mrs Carl Thomsen, aged twenty- 
nine, a graduate of Wellesley, killed an alleged witch, Miss Minnie 
Dilley, aged seventy-six, with a knife and a ginger-ale bottle. The 
habit of attacking witches with bottles seems peculiarly American. 
Said Mrs Thomsen, “ She had cast a spell over me and my hus¬ 
band, and it was her life or mine.” 

February 25, 1929, Brooklyn Daily Eagle tells how Nathaniel 
Conway killed his wife “ because she was a witch and had put a 
death curse on me.” He killed her with a knife and subsequently 
‘ strangled ’ her, because, no matter how dead a witch looks from 
knife or gun, you can never be sure unless she is strangled or 

May 17, 1929, a locally famous ‘witch’ in Rome, Georgia, was 
found murdered in her house. The police said she had practised 
witchcraft for many years, and that one of her clients or victims 
had murdered her. 

In 1927, in Bluefields, Nicaragua, a lady by the name of Doreth 



Fox, married to a Wisconsin man named John Bolton, became a 
high priestess of local black magic. She was ambushed and killed 
on Pearl Lagoon by three men who feared her magic. They were 
sure they were right when dogs dug up her grave. 

In Mobile, Alabama, a few years ago (I can’t locate the exact 
date), King William Carpenter and four high priests of his local 
voodoo temple were arrested because an aged man had died while 
they were trying to exorcize an evil spirit that was supposed to 
have entered his body. One of the methods of exorcism was to 
fasten the patient to a post with a trace chain and beat him with 

I have the record of about twenty other homicide cases among 
Negroes in America within the last few years in which voodoo and 
witchcraft were the motivating causes. Since cases of this sort, 
whether white or black, never become public knowledge unless 
somebody gets arrested, it is anybody’s guess how much larger 
the number of cases may be which we never hear about. 

Apropos of the York hex murder, and its ‘ happy ending ’ 

for the two comparatively innocent young participants who left 
prison in 1939 with that one bad nightmare spot in their lives 
wiped out, John M. McCullough wrote in the Philadelphia 
Inquirer, August 6, 1939: 

It is difficult to describe £ hex,’ or ‘ hexerai ’ (to give it its full 
name), in words that mean anything to the average person, for it 
is a combination of superstition, witchcraft, medieval demonology, 
and primitive religion. 

Under its alleged influence murders have been committed, in¬ 
nocent children have died in agony without benefit of medical 
attention, and men and women have gone to their graves haunted 
by the grim bogies against which they struggled with counter¬ 
rites to no avail. . . . 

It is the grossest error to assume that all or even a measurable 
number of hexerai’s adherents and believers are of feeble mind. 
They are not. Many a stout barn, resting amid its lush acres in 
Lancaster, York, Berks, Lehigh and Lebanon counties, has on its 
gable the curious cabalism, roughly shaped in the form of a Lor¬ 
raine Cross, which wards off evil spirits. 

In fact, during the trial, a minor county official told this writer : 

“ Of course I don’t believe in hex, but it is a fact that a car¬ 
buncle which none of the physicians could cure when I was a boy 
disappeared immediately after a hex-doctor prescribed for me.” 

Contemptuous and half-ashamedly defiant in the same breath! 

The prescription had been an amulet of frog’s leg, chicken 
liver, and other oddments, prayed over at a rotten stump in a 
certain requisite phase of the moon! 

The terrible power of belief in hex has demonstrated its capacity 
for tragedy again and again in the history of dozens of States of 
the United States. 



Physicians appreciate that it is a problem for youth education 
and, in its most aggravated phase in the adult, for the most care¬ 
ful, sympathetic, and painstaking practice of the science of psychia¬ 
try. Belief in the power of a curse, spawned by family environ¬ 
ment, can be as horrible in the mind which it infects as knowledge 
of hereditary insanity can be in the mind of an otherwise normal 
and unaffected member of a family. . . . 

It is easy to be contemptuous about such imaginings . . . and 

Have you ever noticed a person of substance and intelligence 
whom you know make an elaborate though apparently noncha¬ 
lant detour to avoid walking under a ladder ? Have you ever been 
all but catapulted through a windshield by a highly intelligent 
motorist slamming on the brakes to avoid crossing the path of a 
black cat? Have you ever been lectured by a friend for daring 
to take the third light from a match? 

Chapter III 

In Mother Goose, Edith Sitwell, Gertrude Stein (as in all 
African mumbo-jumbo, and as in all medieval magical word 
rhythms, cantrips, spells, incantations), words are used for their 
piled-up, tom-tom impact on the emotions, plus the impact of the 
words’ intrinsic emotional content, as distinguished from the other 
set of values and contents contained in words when they are con¬ 
nected logically to express cold, logical statements and meanings. 

“ Pigeons on the grass alas ” and “ a rose is a rose is a rose is a 
rose ” have deep tom-tom and emotion-contact impact—which is 
the reason they have become world-famous and familiar even to 
people who deride them. 

Mother Goose has survived over a century, and will continue to 
survive because it is similarly laden. 

Hickory, Dickory, Dock 

makes the eternal clock tick whether a mouse subsequently runs 
up it or not. 

A diller a dollar, 

A ten o’clock scholar 

survives in memory no matter what happens when he arrives at 
the little red schoolhouse. 

Diddle, diddle, dumpling, my son John, 

He went to bed with his trousers on; 

One shoe off, the other shoe on, 

Diddle, diddle, dumpling, my son John. 

John will live as long as the band of revellers on Keats’s Grecian 
urn, not because of what he wore to bed, but because of 



Diddle, diddle, dumpling. 

Therefore, ye soft pipes, play on. 

Edith Sitwell added the soft pipes when she made a set of 
Decca records (T.124, l 2 5 )> chanting her Facade to music. They 
are hot with the heat of tom-tom impact and superheated with the 
emotion impact of words strung together solely for the value of 
their emotion content, as cunningly chosen as if by any black 
African witch: 

Man must say farewell 
To parents now 
And to William Tell 
And Mrs Cow— 

Man must say farewell. 

Gertrude Stein is a lover of the unseen, but also an intellectual, 
and she sometimes gets her roles mixed. As a lover of the unseen, 
I think, she can do more with words in weaving spells and incanta¬ 
tions than any other living writer. I give this opinion not as a 
literary critic, but as an apprentice witch-doctor. My name is 
Willie, and, as Willie, I think some of her “ Lily Lucy ” lines in 
Four Saints in Three Acts will last as long as Shakespeare and 

In a recent children’s book she writes: 

My name is Willie I am not like Rose 
I would be Willie whatever arose, 

I would be Willie if Henry was my name 
I would be Willie always Willie all the same. 


What a sky 

And then the glass pen 
(Rose did have a glass pen) 

When oh When 
Little glass pen 
Say when 

Will there not be that little rabbit 




It’s nonsense, and so is Mother Goose, and my witch-doctor’s 
guess is that Gertrude Stein’s little glass pen is less fragile than 
it seems. Whether I’m right or wrong about it, a lot that she writes 
(even when not infected by her deep learning) impacts with the 
power of jungle doggerel on me—and I take more delight in it 
because she is on the side of the children and angels, instead of on 
that of the demons and darkness and death: 



Bring me bread 
Bring me butter 
Bring me cheese 
And bring me jam 
Bring me milk 
And bring me chicken 
Bring me eggs 
And a little ham. 

Once upon a time something can 
Once upon a time nobody sees 
How to please me Willie. 

But I do as I please 
I Willie 

Willie 11 do as I please 

Run around the world just as I please. 

I Willie. 

I, Willie too, think it’s so goddamned beautiful that I just wish 
it were true—of I Willie. 

Chapter VII 

The magical properties of salt and metals are believed in by 
all primitives. Salt is a potent factor in casting spells, and if you 
are already under evil enchantment salt becomes poison. I men¬ 
tioned this in my account of zombis in Magic Island (Harrap), and 
in 1939 Dr Rolph Reiseman commented further on it in Kolnische 
Zeitung : 

One Easter Sunday a woman was left on a plantation to look 
after the zombis. She was extremely anxious to go to the neigh¬ 
bouring village and see the Easter Parade, and decided to take the 
zombis with her. These creatures sat down in the market-place 
and watched the procession with unseeing, dispassionate eyes. In 
view of the general festivity of the occasion the woman bought a 
few sugar buns for the zombis, after assuring herself they con¬ 
tained no salt. But unfortunately she forgot to notice one thing— 
the pistachio nuts with which they were topped had been rolled 
in salt. 

After eating them the zombis marched back to their native 
villages, many miles away. 

Metal similarly is powerful in casting or warding off spells, but 
dangerous to touch if you are already under enchantment. Frank 
Gervasi had an article in Collier’s, November 25, 1939, about King 
Alfonso and the Evil Eye, in which he told how the superstitious 
Italians always clung to the keys in their pockets when the former 
King of Spain came to Rome. He tells about a doorman, named 
Pietro, at the Grand Hotel, when Alfonso, who was stopping there, 



had greeted him. When he had ascertained that his Majesty was 
not looking 

Pietro reached under his tail-coat and withdrew a long, shiny 
iron key. He removed his white cotton gloves deftly. In his bare 
hands he rubbed the polished key, and as he did so muttered 
what seemed an Italian incantation. Pietro replaced the key with 
the air of a man who has just purchased a large quantity of life 

Pietro rubbed the iron key because he, like all other Italians 
from Benito Mussolini down to the lowliest peasant, implicitly 
believes that Alfonso is a jettatore . literally a ‘ thrower * of bad 

Alfonso, Pietro would explain, has the Evil Eye. One almost 
foolproof safeguard against the disastrous effects of the evil glance 
is to make immediate and intimate contact with a bit of iron— 
key, horseshoe, spike, or whatever is handy. 

The superstition concerning the jettatore is as old as Italy her¬ 
self. Pliny wrote of laws passed for the ostracism of those suspected 
or proved to possess the Evil Eye. A Pope, during the intellectual 
sterility of the Middle Ages, ordered with a Papal Bull the prosecu¬ 
tion of “ male and female witches ” who cast their spells with 
the eye. 

On another occasion, in Naples, Gervasi tells that 

Mothers in the throngs on the docks along the waterfront spat 
three times against the breasts of their babies, according to the 
ancient advice of Theocritus, to protect the children from the 
blighting blink of the bewildered Alfonso. Fathers wore amulets 
of iron, carried iron spikes, and jingled iron keys. The clatter of 
hardware rose above the cheers and was something to hear. 

Either salt or metal is a protection if you are not already under 
a spell—but if the curse is already on you you must wear Paris 
garters, no metal must touch you—and you don’t dare eat salt. 
You must eat unseasoned food out of a wooden bowl with a 
wooden spoon. 

Chapter IV 

Panther societies in London are among the weird cults 
recently investigated by Elliott O’Donnell. More than once I ve 
told incredulous friends that I’ve encountered more horror, mys¬ 
tery, black superstition, mystical evil, and weird abomination in 
the shadows of New York’s skyscrapers, London’s towers, and 
Paris’s cathedrals (particularly St Sulpice) than I ever did in 
the African jungle. It is a pleasure to quote Mr O’Donnell in 
confirmation of this, with reference to London. I quote, with his 
permission, from his Strange Cults and Secret Societies in Condon 
(Philip Allan and Co., Ltd.). I hope Mr O’Donnell will favour 
us with similar volumes on New York, Paris, and Berlin. 

Concerning suitable playmates in modern London for my 
bloody little playmates in the Ivory Coast Mr O’Donnell says: 

If you were to tell any of your friends that there are human 
panthers and leopards in London, they would not, of course, be¬ 
lieve you. Nevertheless, I believe it to be a fact. There certainly 
is a secret cult in London that imitates, as far as it dares, the 
tenets and practices of the leopard and panther people of Africa. . . . 

One evening an acquaintance of mine, who is an Irish writer 
of some repute, having drunk rather more than was good for 
him, ... in attempting to stagger home from his club, by some 
means he could never quite explain, got into a strange house in¬ 
stead of his own, and found himself in a semi-dark room full of 
queer-looking people, male and female, clad in leopard skins. 
Being given a skin by a dark, foreign-looking girl, he . . . put it 
on. . . . Probably no one paid any heed to him, every one’s at¬ 
tention being centred on a woman who was standing in the middle 
of the room, haranguing them. My friend could not see her very 
distinctly owing to the lights being turned down, but he judged 
her to be coloured, she looked so dark, and not a British subject, 
as she spoke with a decided foreign accent. The cool night air, 
blowing into the room through an open window near at hand, 
gradually sobered him, and his brain became quite clear. He 
realized then that the people around him belonged to some strange 
exotic cult, and finally the amazing fact that they were leopard 
and panther people dawned on him. 

The woman who was haranguing them was a witch-doctor. She 
was expatiating on the various qualities of the leopard and panther; 
extolling their beauty, their cunning, and their courage, and bid¬ 
ding her audience take these animals as their models, copying 
them as nearly as they could, without actually getting themselves 



into serious trouble. When she had finished this exhortation, a 
stuffed leopard was fetched and placed in their midst, and every 
one, kneeling down in front of it, repeated, in low, monotonous 
tones, a kind of prayer or incantation, during which, at intervals, 
the witch-doctor clapped her hands, and every one touched the 
ground with their foreheads. The incantation over, one of the 
company, a very tall man, beat several times on a tom-tom, where¬ 
upon all present, forming themselves into a circle, linked hands 
and danced round and round the witch-doctor and leopard, toss¬ 
ing their heads backwards and forwards, and howling and growl¬ 
ing, in imitation, my friend supposed, of the noises made by a 
leopard. This performance continued until some of the participants 
obviously getting exhausted, the witch-doctor clapped her hands 
as a signal, and it ceased. After that every one sat on the floor, 
with legs crossed, Turkish fashion, whilst the leopard was removed 
and the dummy of a woman put in its place. The witch-doctor 
then, demonstrating the leopards’ and panthers’ method of seiz¬ 
ing their prey, sprang on the back of the dummy, dug the claws 
of the skin she was wearing into it, and pretended to bury her 
teeth in its throat. 

The spectacle might have struck some people as horrible and 
revolting, but my friend thought it merely ludicrous. The witch¬ 
doctor was decidedly plump, and to see her performing such antics 
was very funny. The members of the cult, however, did not think 
so; they were in dead earnest, and when the witch-doctor had 
finished her demonstration, several of those present got up, and 
one after the other imitated her to the best of their ability, going 
through the same performance. Eventually, after more beating 
on the tom-tom and singing, a girl produced a huge bowl full 
of raw meat, and proceeded to hand it round. This was the last 
straw as far as my friend was concerned. . . . He could not stand 
it, so he decided to beat a retreat. The member who had gone out 
of the room to fetch the meat had left the door slightly open, 
and my friend slipped out unobserved. He was reminded of his 
adventure, some weeks later, when he read in one of the London 
papers that a girl had been found dead in a lonely suburban 
thoroughfare, with curious wounds, like scratches made by some 
large animal, on her back and chest. . . . 

Many people will probably recall the case that happened a few 
years ago, either in London or one of the suburbs, of a youth, 
who, for no other apparent reason than blood lust or the love 
of cruelty, killed a boy much younger than himself. He lured the 
boy into some lonely spot and then, springing on his back after the 
manner of a wild beast, mauled and killed him. Though no hint 
was made of such a thing in court during the trial, it was rumoured 
in the locality where the crime had been committed that the 
murderer might belong to a panther society, because men clad 
in panther skins had been seen, from time to time, in the garden 
of one of the houses there. ... A curious story about the same 
cult was told me by Madame Bessier, who, some years ago, was 
living in the Faubourg Saint-Antoine, Paris. She said that she was 
walking along a quiet road, late one summer evening, when a 
private automobile passed her and stopped outside a house, on 



the same side of the road, about twenty yards ahead of her. Two 
men got out of the car, and then, reluctantly, so it seemed to 
Madame Bessier, a lady wearing an opera cloak. The men each 
took an arm of the lady and almost dragged her into the house. 
There being something about the men Madame Bessier did not 
like, she paused outside the house, debating in her mind whether 
one ought to call a policeman or not. She was still standing there, 
unable to decide, when two other cars drove up and several men and 
women got out of them and approached the house. As they did 
so, the front door opened (apparently they were expected) and 
Madame Bessier saw something that startled her very considerably. 
It looked like a leopard on its hind legs. However, before she 
could make up her mind what it was, the door slammed to, rather 
violently. Fascinated by what she had seen, she remained in front 
of the house for some time. Presently she moved on, but she had 
not gone far when she heard a cry, a cry of pain. It seemed to 
come from the house, and it was followed by intense silence. . . . 

She did not pass the house again for nearly two years, and when 
she did, she noticed it was empty and for sale. Curiosity prompt¬ 
ing her, she got permission from the agent, and accompanied by 
one of his clerks, went to look it over. Directly she got inside the 
front door she was conscious of a curious smell. It was strangely 
familiar to her, but at first she could not identify it. Then, sud¬ 
denly, she recognized it. It was the smell of the big cats of the 
jungle, the smell she had grown quite used to when living in 
the Dutch East Indies. She asked the clerk if he could explain 
the smell, how it got there, whence it came. ... 

After much coaxing on her part, and many assurances that, if he 
told her, she would not say a word about it to the house agent, 
... he said it was rumoured that a queer society, who used to 
dress up in leopard and panther skins and indulge in all kinds of 
orgies, once inhabited it, and that after they left, people who looked 
over it complained of the smell she had spoken about, the smell 
of wild beasts. . . . 

The panther and leopard people are said to have had quarters 
in Blackheath some time ago, somewhere in the neighbourhood of 
Shooter’s Hill Road. 

Mr O’Donnell in this book gives an account of no less than 
seventeen strange cults and secret societies which flourish to-day 
in what seems on the surface the world’s most conventional, cir¬ 
cumspect great city. What he has to say about the Gorgons and 
mummy-worshippers will perhaps partially explain why the witch s 
doll de luxe which I uncovered in London was less anachronistic 
than it seemed: 

Somewhere on the banks of the Thames, between Richmond 
and Maidenhead, the Gorgons, a secret society of women, who 
. . . have no liking for men, have their headquarters. 

Their High Priestess ... is called Medusa. She has been de¬ 
scribed to me as of middle age, tall and of a masculine build and 
leonine appearance that is absolutely uncanny. . . . 



The Gorgons believe only in Nature and Nature worship. 
Every night in the week they meet, either in or out of doors, and 
worship Nature, either in some animate or inanimate form. The 
nature objects they select for worship are usually either those that 
were venerated by the Ancients, or those that have been deified 
by the cult’s High Priestess, Medusa; and they are invariably 
said by the cult to be of feminine gender. The sun, the moon, the 
stars, river, woods and pools, all are deified objects, and strange, 
indeed, are the tributes these Thames-side worshippers pay them. 
I can, however, furnish my readers with a reliable account of 
some of the Gorgon ceremonies, since they were described to me 
by an ex-member of the cult, who participated in them. 

Miss Biggs, my informant, attended her first ceremony, at 
which homage would be paid to the Thames, soon after she had 
passed through her final stage of initiations. Pier written summons 
to it was virtually a command. . . . 

Her [Medusa’s] white dress, like that of her followers, was 
sleeveless; she wore many and various massive gold bangles on 
her arms; her bare feet were encased in sandals, and her toe-nails, 
no less than her finger-nails, were covered with red varnish. . . . 

This first stage, Miss Biggs explained, was a somewhat embar¬ 
rassing and trying affair. The initiate, in order to prove her agility 
and strength, had to run so many yards in so many seconds, to 
jump no mean height, pull herself up several times on a horizontal 
bar, and wrestle with one of the most physically formidable mem¬ 
bers. But that was not all; in order to prove her willingness to 
submit and obey Medusa in all things, she had to kneel before 
her, imprint a kiss upon both of her feet, and take from her three 
strokes, and pretty hard strokes too, inflicted by a stick cut from 
an ash-tree. . . . 

The sacrifice followed, with more ceremonial. Every member 
had brought an offering either of food or wine, or some article 
of apparel, and when all these gifts had been placed in tubs, 
moored alongside the shore, the tubs were set on fire and pushed 
off, into midstream, to the accompaniment of the cult song of 

With regard to secret mummy cults, there is at least one in 
London, Mr O’Donnell says, with headquarters in Upper Nor¬ 
wood. He describes one of their ceremonies which a friend of his 

The members of the society gathered in the courtyard of the 
headquarters, around a tomb in which the mummy of a Peruvian 
princess was laid. After a brief ceremony of worship four mem¬ 
bers of the society, dressed in black, came out of the house carrying 
a kind of stretcher on which another mummy sat upon a low stool. 
The mummy was wrapped in a llama skin, the only uncovered 
parts of her being her hands and feet. The stretcher was set 
down in the midst of the worshippers. By the side of the wooden 
stool were several pieces of brightly coloured Peruvian pottery; 
and painted in brilliant red, on what looked like a piece of calico 


25 1 

attached to the llama skin above the mummy’s breast, was a 
flaming device depicting the sun. After the recital of several long 
prayers by the President, during which the members knelt in 
silence, the mummy was taken slowly into the chulpa (tomb), and 
there deposited. Then incense was burned, more prayers read, and 
every one sat on the ground, legs crossed, and eyes on the door of 
the chulpa. Minutes passed; then slowly the door of the tomb 
opened and the mummy appeared on the threshold. This time 
it moved of its own will, passing among the members, her features 
covered by a veil, her hands and feet free. She even bent and 
kissed one of the members. Then she faced them all, stretched 
out her arms, uttered three cries, and glided back into the tomb. 
The President said a few prayers, shut and bolted the door of the 
chulpa, and announced the meeting at an end. 

Chapter V 

Torture to drive out devils bids fair to be reinstated by 
science. Most ancient and medieval methods of treating the ‘ pos¬ 
sessed ’ and insane were based on theories identical with those 
held by early Christians and African witch-doctors. Just as Ein¬ 
stein, Carrel, and the late Steinmetz returned to a theory of the 
universe which the African witch-doctors and a few late Christians 
clung to in the face of materialism, so medicine may now be in 
process of returning scientifically to torture as a therapeutic 
method and psychological cathartic. They call it “ convulsive 
therapy,” and here is part of what Time said about it (November 
20, 1939): 

To-day psychiatrists again apply with scientific refinements 
something very like medieval shock treatment to victims of schizo¬ 
phrenia (dementia prsecox). Most common form of insanity, 
schizophrenia packs 200,000 patients in U.S. mental hospitals. . , . 

Metrazol is a powerful stimulant of the centres which regulate 
blood-pressure, heart-action, and respiration. . , . About five cubic 
centimetres of the drug are injected into his [the patient’s] veins. 
In about half a minute he coughs, casts terrified glances around 
the room, twitches violently, utters a hoarse wail, freezes into 
rigidity with his mouth wide open, arms and legs stiff as boards. 
Then he goes into convulsions. In one or two minutes the con¬ 
vulsion is over, and he gradually passes into a coma, which lasts 
about an hour. After a series of shocks, his mind may be swept 
clean of delusions. . . , 

So horrible are the artificial epileptic fits forced by metrazol 
that practically no patients ever willingly submit. Common symp¬ 
toms are a “ flash of blinding light,” an “ aura of terror.” One 
patient described the treatment as death “ by the electric chair.” 
Another asked piteously, “ Doctor, is there any cure for this treat¬ 
ment? ” 



More serious than this subjective terror are dislocations of the 
jaw, tiny compression fractures of the spine, which occurred to 
metrazol patients in over 40 per cent, of one series of cases. During 
their violent convulsions patients arch their backs with such force 
that sometimes they literally crush their vertebrae. 

So although metrazol is widely used, a large number of psy¬ 
chiatrists condemn it as “ a very dangerous drug.” . . . Most ex¬ 
perts now agree that, despite a few spectacular cures, metrazol is 
far less effective than insulin. A few laboratory workers are experi¬ 
menting with kindred drugs, trying to concoct a less dangerous 


Chapter I 

The universe outside sensory perception, outside our three 
dimensions and the conventional concept of time-space, was per¬ 
haps first glimpsed by Plato. If his majestic ghost could return 
after more than two thousand years of pendulum-swinging in 
which the materialism of the nineteenth century became as ridi¬ 
culous as its earlier antithesis, the majestic ghost might smile to 
learn that Einstein, Steinmetz, Carrel, Dunne, Haldane and Co. 
had returned to a concept not unlike that which he had put in the 
mouth of Socrates. He has Socrates saying to dear Glaucon. 

Behold! human beings living in an underground den, which has 
a mouth open towards the light and reaching all along the den; 
here they have been from their childhood, and have their legs 
and necks chained so that they cannot move, and can only see 
before them, being prevented by the chains from turning round 
their heads. Above and behind them a fire is blazing at a distance, 
and between the fire and the prisoners there is a raised way, and 
you will see, if you look, a low wall built along the way, like the 
screen which marionette players have in front of them, over which 
they show their puppets. 

I see. 

And do you see, I said, men passing along the wall carrying all 
sorts of vessels, and statues and figures of animals made of wood 
and stone and various materials, which appear over the wall? 
Some of them are talking, others are silent. 

You have shown me a strange image, and they are strange 


Like ourselves, I replied; and they see only their own shadows, 
or the shadows of one another, which the fire throws on the oppo¬ 
site wall of the cave? 

True, he said; how could they see anything but the shadows 
if they were never allowed to move their heads? 

And of the objects which are being carried in like manner they 
would only see the shadows? 

Yes, he said. 

And if they were able to converse with one another would they 
not suppose they were naming what was actually before them? 

Very true. 

And suppose further that the prison had an echo which came 
from the other side, would they not be sure to fancy when one 
of the passers-by spoke that the voice which they heard came from 
the passing shadow? 

No question, he replied. 

To them, I said, the truth would be literally nothing but the 
shadows of the images. 




It’s going to be fun, after quoting from Greek classics, to quote 
briefly from Lady Eleanor Smith’s Life’s a Circus: 

It was about three o’clock in the morning, and the auditorium 
was dark and empty. The five of us sat together in the dress- 
circle, watching the final rehearsal of the “ Snowbird ” Ballet [of 
Ballerina']. . . . 

I have explained before that watching Pavlova from the side of 
the stage had inspired me to write Ballerina..,. I think that Pavlova 
had either directly or indirectly inspired us all, and Pavlova was 
dead. She had certainly inspired Pat, Frances, and myself. 

The stage revolved to show a woodland glade, with nymphs in 
white tarlatan grouped in a traditional entrance. . . . Now, as we 
watched, a slight figure walked on to the stage. A figure snow-white 
in a fluffy tutu, its head bound with swan’s plumage. The figure 
paused, crossing itself. It seemed to me that Frances [Frances 
Doble] had grown much smaller. 

Then, as it glided into the spotlight, I caught my breath. 

For the figure was not that of Frances. It had assumed the form 
of Anna Pavlova. 

Pat [Anton Dolin, co-star with Frances] gripped my hand until 
I thought he would break it. I looked at him; he was ice-pale, and 
there was sweat on his face. 

He muttered: 

“ This is uncanny . . . it’s awful . . , what have we done? Oh, 
God—why did we ever bring up the past? ” 

The white form on the stage stood effortlessly upon one pointe ; it 
pirouetted three times—a thing Frances could not do—and drifted 
like swansdown into “ Borek’s” arms, as the curtain fell. I looked 
again at my companions. They were white and dazed. 

Somebody mumbled: 

“ We’re all very tired . . . don’t let’s imagine things. . . .” 

Somebody else said: 

“ We can’t all have seen—-what we saw. . . .” 

Pat and I ran to the pass-door. 

We were afraid. 

Frances stood on the stage, and said to Pat in a perplexed, 
mechanical voice: 

“ Pat, I’m sorry . . , let’s take it again.” 

“ Take it again? Why? ” 

“ 1 couldn’t dance. I must be awfully tired. My mind suddenly 
seemed to go blank. . . 

Pat gave me a warning look, and we said nothing at the time. 

Later he affirmed: 

“ We can’t deny it. For a moment that particular spirit from the 
past took possession of Frances’s mind and body.” 1 

Justine s lion and barrel of fish, which occur in my concluding 
chapters, are perhaps less absurd in the firelight of Plato’s cave 
and the gasoline flares of Lady Eleanor’s circus tent than they 
seemed to me when I was wridng in the sunshine, and perhaps 

1 By permission of the author. 



less absurd than they may seem to you, if you bother to read as 
far as that by the light of your Mazda lamp. 

Rhine’s figures impress me (as a black magician) and John 
Mulholland (as a stage magician) even less than they do that holy 
terror of all American psychologists James McKeen Cattell and 
the sceptical university professors who combine skill in mathe¬ 
matics and an interest in advanced psychology. 

I have a warm and friendly admiration for Rhine’s painstaking 
care, his scrupulous scientific honesty, and am not involving myself 
in any controversy concerning the mathematical soundness of the 
theory from which he derives his percentages and averages. It is 
simply that in my opinion and Mulholland s the slight pluses 
Rhine’s figures show are not enough * 

I think pure mathematicians have complicated their own nega¬ 
tive criticisms so much that they don’t prove anything either. 
I think Rhine’s own figures almost stand up in the light of their 
attacks, but I don’t believe they stand up against what all gamb¬ 
lers know. There are not only such things as * runs, there are also 
such things as * slides.’ Take guessing an ace out of the deck. 
Your chances are one in thirteen. Or take matching pennies, 
where your chances are even. There are always runs and there are 
frequently slides. Same thing in the red and black of roulette.. Of 
course, it always balances out in time, but there are only given 
moments in which it balances. Runs and slides start occurring 
again. The slide would seldom be necessary to explain Rhine s 
pluses. A series of runs could account for most of it. At all times 
except the moment when it balances, even if you carry it to astro¬ 
nomical numbers, there’s always a positive and negative run one 
way or the other. If you try to guess the ace googol times you 11 
get an average in certain spots of exactly one in thirteen. You 11 
get that exact average once every several million guesses, but on 
the millions of times in between you’ll always be having runs and 
sometimes fantastically prolonged slides. Here s what Mulholland 
did with it. He writes in Beware Familiar Spirits : 

Professor Pitkin and I were interested in seeing what true chance 
might bring. We therefore asked aid from the International Busi¬ 
ness Machines Corporation. We not only asked aid from the 
company but dropped our problem into their lap. While we. knew 
what we wanted, we were most anxious not to have anything to 
do with getting it, so as to eliminate any possible chance of psychic 
cause. Jointly we wrote the following letter to the company: 

“ The interesting experiments of Professor Rhine, of Duke Uni¬ 
versity, in ‘ parapsychology ’ seem to show that some people are, 
in a sense, clairvoyant, while others are televisual. The entire 
country has been following the card-naming tests which Rhine 
and his many friends have been conducting. A few scientists still 
suspect that something in the method or in the interpretations of 
results requires clarifying. We happen to be of this opinion. 



“ In recent discussions we have advanced two lines of thought, 
both so closely interrelated that we have decided to invite your com¬ 
pany to conduct one or more fairly simple tests on your machines 
by way of clearing up a fundamental issue. 

“ This issue has to do with the structure of long runs of pre¬ 
sumed chance events. The so-called ‘ laws of probability ’ in their 
purely mathematical form assert nothing as to specific sequences 
in the space-time order that we call the real world. All that is 
asserted is that, out of a given number of events, presumably deter¬ 
mined by an indefinitely large number of variables, certain rela¬ 
tive frequencies tend to occur. When any particular frequency 
arises is not known; nor is any unusual frequency regarded as 
evidence that a ‘ special cause ’ is at work. 

“ In common thinking, however, another practice is followed. 
People regularly assume that any striking series of similar repeat¬ 
ing events implies the ‘ probability ’ of a special ‘ cause.’ e The rule 
of common sense ’ or ‘ the lesson of experience ’ is invoked here. It 
seems to us that the parapsychologists have not given due consid¬ 
eration to certain logical weaknesses in this practical type of in¬ 

“ For instance, we should like to compare minutely a very long 
Rhine sequence with a correspondingly long one made by a 
method which is incontrovertibly ‘ pure chance ’ in the mathemati¬ 
cal sense. 

“ Such runs would be strictly comparable to the total of tests 
made by all the parapsychologists. The important question would 
then be directly answerable; it is this: 

“ Do the right answers recorded by the parapsychologists’ sub¬ 
jects relate to the total answers in a manner significantly differ¬ 
ent from similar coincidences of events mechanically produced? 

“ Our doubt would then be solved one way or another. We 
feel that the parapsychologists, by casting out all the persons who 
answer according to the ‘ law of probability ’ and by talking solely 
about the rare cases who show abnormal correctness in answering 
to the card draws, distort the picture gravely. Here we agree thor¬ 
oughly and would like to see a full intercorrelation worked out 
between total guesses, right and wrong, in the Rhine experiments, 
and a large series made mechanically.” 

The International Business Machines Corporation, under the 
direction of their skilled operators, ran two hundred thousand 
numbered cards. The first hundred thousand cards were white, 
and each card carried digits from 1 through 5. There was an 
even distribution of those digits. Twenty thousand cards carried 
1; twenty thousand 2; and so on. The white cards were mechani¬ 
cally shuffled and run through a machine which printed the num¬ 
bers on paper in the order in which they happened to come. The 
second hundred thousand cards were red, and these also had an 
equal distribution of the first five digits. These, too, were mechani¬ 
cally shuffled,. and their numbers were printed on the paper. 
The finished job, as sent to Professor Pitkin and myself, con¬ 
sisted of page after page with printed columns of numbers—one 
column from the white cards and one from the red. Just as with 
Dr Rhine’s test there was one chance in five of the pair of digits 
in any given line being the same—that is, matching. But with 



our test, there was no possible chance of mind-reading or clair¬ 
voyance as a factor. In getting a true picture of pure chance, a 
run of a hundred thousand is a small number, but it is a large 
number to work with; for instance, there are not that many words 
in this book. Of course, as we expected, we got what seemed to be 
most exceptional runs and lack of runs. When mathematicians 
say that an event is likely to happen but once in so many times, 
they do not mean that it has to happen, or that it can’t happen 
more than once in any given series. No segment and no particular 
time are referred to in the mathematician’s statement. If we knew 
how to state the possibilities of special events, they would cease 
to be possibilities and would become certainties. 

We got some amazingly amusing results. For instance, there 
were as many as thirty-two lines of figures in sequence without 
one matching pair. Of course, by chance we might expect to get 
six matched pairs. Again, there would be runs of matching pairs. 
Professor Pitkin made a most astonishing discovery about these 
runs. Runs of five matching pairs in sequence fell 25 per cent, 
below theoretical frequency, while runs of six rose to 25 per cent, 
above theoretical frequency. Runs of seven jumped still higher to 
59 per cent, above chance expectancy, and with runs of eight we 
went to 78 per cent, above theoretical frequency. Now, if we 
were to use our short-test run illogically, we might infer that in 
any long run the tendency is for the striking coincidences to occur 
oftener than called for by the mathematical formula. And the 
longer the coincidental run, the higher its frequency as compared 
with mathematical requirements. Obviously, this ends in pure absur¬ 
dity. Another amusing freak deviation from theoretical distribu¬ 
tion was that in the first forty thousand pairs there were almost 
three times as many runs of five as there were in the next sixty 
thousand, while with the runs of six it was just the reverse. And 
neither of these series of runs was to be expected. 

We also found that when we arbitrarily selected segments for 
their high frequency of matching pairs, we would find twenty-five 
and twice twenty-five with half the pairs matching. These runs 
were above chance expectancy in a hundred thousand; but in an 
infinite number they were to be expected. All that we had was 
a series of numbers in which these matched pairs happened to 

Totalling the number of 4 correct guesses ’ in each thousand of 
our pure-chance run, we found that twenty-four thousand came 
within 2 per cent, of mathematical expectancy; thirty thousand 
went above, and forty-six thousand went below theoretical chance. 
The total number of pairs in the entire one hundred thousand was 
less than 2 per cent, away from what was to be expected. The 
total, by the way, was under mathematical expectancy. 

Perhaps Dr Rhine has proved that a certain few people have 
mind-reading or clairvoyant powers, but so far the tests do not 
seem to me to be conclusive. I know that he will agree with me 
fully in stating that, even granting that there are people who have 
extra-sensory perception, it is a most uncertain and undependable 

Fallacious isolation is so easy in dealing with psychological 
studies. My mother has been amused for years because of a book 



in which the author pointed out my extremely youthful identi¬ 
fication of music. The author based his opinion on personal ob¬ 
servation and on the answers my mother gave to his questions. He 
saw me get quite excited in a dining-room in a hotel when the 
orchestra began to play a march by Sousa. I was but a baby in a 
high chair, and he was quite astonished to hear me call out 
“Sousa! ” He came over to the table and asked my mother if I 
had actually said “ Sousa ” when the orchestra began to play, and 
she replied that I had. Fie then asked for my name and age, and 
both were given him. It so happened that my baby name for 
music was ‘ Sousa.’ The professor had merely failed to ask the 
right question. 

So far, nothing has convinced me of anyone’s ability to read 
minds, but then many people do believe. My mother not only 
does believe mind-reading possible but bases her proof on the 
number of times I have read her mind. I think the probability 
is that on a few occasions I have outguessed her, and, mother-like, 
she has unconsciously multiplied the number many times. 1 

Possibility of precognition is accepted and partially explained 
by the British military inventor and scientist J. W. Dunne, in 
various volumes including The Serial Universe and An Experi¬ 
ment with Time. Commenting on Dunne’s theories, in the New 
York Times Book Review (December 3, 1939), Henry James For¬ 
man says: 

Mr Dunne, however popular he tries to be in his manner of 
presenting his theory, is still and always the engineer, the scientist, 
and the mathematician. . . . 

One may state with boldness that if any theory of the present 
confused age has a chance of surviving and growing Mr Dunne’s 
theory of “ serialism ” is the likeliest. For all of us to-day, from 
the most intelligent to the least intelligent, are weary of the 
materialist pummelling we have received during the last seventy 
or eighty years. To such a degree has the universe been mechanized 
for us that scientists themselves can no longer bear it. And now 
we hear from the greatest of them that the universe consists of 
pure thought. Intuitively we have always felt that to be the case. 
We have always known somehow that Reality is hidden by the veil 
of so-called matter and that matter itself does not matter much. 
It is the poets, saints, and prophets to whom we turn to enlarge 
our spirits, not to theses upon the Diesel engine, however brilliant, 
nor to techniques of nerve-splicing or operable cancer. 

In his first book Mr Dunne showed, much to his own surprise, 
that dreams have certain startling attributes; that actually they 
reveal the future quite as often as they deal with the past. That 
the time in and by which we live is very far from the whole story, 
and that there is a ‘ Now ’ of which our past and future are merely 
small artificial compartments . Being a scientist, he pursued the 
experimental method and arrived at some amazing results. . . . 

The self which we cannot visualize, he shows, but of which we 
are vaguely aware, is a travelling field altering entropy—a travel- 

1 By permission of the author and Messrs Charles Scribner’s Sons, Ltd. 



ling intersection point. “ All states which the self at the travelling 
field regards as < future ’ are just as real in the sense of. existing 
now ’ as are those states which the same restricted individual 
regards as past. All,” he adds, ( are equally present in the real 
‘ now.’ ... But the self can interfere at the place where the travel¬ 
ling field happens to be. ...” 

Thus Mr Dunne arrives by mathematics and physics to the 
point where those saints and prophets referred to by Mr Priestley 
were when they told us such things as, “ Before Abraham was, I 
am ”; or, in the words of the Buddhist sutra, “ all sentient beings 
are identical in essence with the true nature; ... the nature in 
itself neither departs nor comes.” 

The slit-in-time business is just now exciting a lot of practical 
and hard-boiled people. Lowell Thomas, at Mulholland s request, 
tells, in Beware Familiar Spirits, of a girl who had precognition 
of his residence in Dutchess County. Lowell says: 

Back in my schooldays I had a girl chum, a young lady who 
vanished from my life when I grew up. I had entirely lost track 
of her. After the World War, upon returning from ten years of 
wandering around the globe, I was walking along a street in the 
Broadway night-life district and to my surprise saw the name 
of my school friend, Beula Bondi, featured in electric lights in 
a theatre marquee. I went backstage with the hope that it was 
the same girl. It was, and there was a reunion, with memories of 
gay college days. 

Said Miss Bondi: “ Tommy, although I have not heard from 
you in years and years, you have not been entirely out of my 
thoughts. For several summers I have lived in the foothills of 
the Berkshires, and every time I passed a certain house, I had a 
strange feeling that you were there living in that house! ” 

At that time I had never been in the Berkshires and knew 
nothing about Dutchess County, and had never heard of lovely 
Quaker Hill. But two years after meeting Miss Bondi, who is 
now a celebrated character actress of the screen, I decided I wanted 
a place in the country, and it must be within one hundred miles 
of Manhattan Island. Whereupon I began a systematic search of 
everything within that distance. My dream was to find a perfect 
all-year-round climate, plus scenic beauty, plus good neighbours. 
For one reason or another I eliminated Long Island, Northern 
New Jersey, and both the West and East shores of the Hudson. 
Eventually my travels brought me to Dutchess County, and to 
historic Quaker Hill, a ten-mile-long ridge in the South-eastern 
corner of the county, which is one of the loveliest spots on earth 
not as spectacular as the Vale of Kashmir—but in its own way 
just as beautiful. 

And there on one spur of Quaker Hill I saw just the colonial 
house I wanted. The dowager who owned the estate at that time 
had not thought of selling. But, at last, a deal was made. And 
that, as you have guessed by now, is the same which Beula Bondi 
had’for many years associated with her college friend, the house 
in which she, with her prophetic eye, saw me living, 



This I discovered later after I had moved into the neighbour¬ 

Fulton Oursler, as quoted by Mulholland, says: 

The riddle of time and space has always seemed to me much 
more important than the question of personal survival; and I have 
had actually hundreds of experiences that seemed to indicate the 
validity of the ‘ slit in time ’ theory advanced in the last few years 
by the great Freudian apostate, Jung. I came to the same theory 
independently. I do not know if I formulated it before Jung did, 
but I certainly formulated it before Jung announced it. 

Chapter III 

this book goes to press. They get photos in picture papers, space 
in newspapers, including the New York Herald-Tribune and the 
New York Times. 

At Oakdale, Long Island, James B. Schafer has founded the 
Royal Fraternity of Master Metaphysicians, and has adopted a 
red-haired six-months-old girl baby by the name of Jean Gauntt. 
The baby is to be subjected to intensive white magic as a candi¬ 
date for immortality. 

At West Hempstead, Long Island, a Russian named Gleb 
Botkin, son of the physician to the late Tsar, has founded and 
incorporated the Long Island Church of Aphrodite, for the wor¬ 
ship of Venus. 

In Los Angeles, California, Edwin J. Dingle, F.R.G.S., has ex¬ 
panded the Institute of Mentalphysics, which hopes to regenerate 
the Western world by Yoga. Mr Dingle, of course, “lived in a 
Tibetan monastery,” where the priests taught him “ secret methods 
closely guarded for many centuries.” 

Great white magicians go out of fashion, or come croppers, but 
my bet is that these will be about for quite a while. The field 
offers as good opportunity for success as medicine or law, 
but is almost as crowded. There are thousands of little ones, male 
and female, who never get further than talking to the ghost of 
your grandmother through an “ Indian guide ”; reading your palm 
or horoscope for twenty-five cents; or reading your future in tea- 
leaves at the same price—with the tea and toast thrown in. The 
great rewards are only for the great successes, but if you feel 
you’re in communication with my late aunt from Hawkinsville, 
Georgia, or her deceased equivalent in your own family, or with 
Tibetan monks or their esoteric equivalent in the great human 
family, you might have a shot at it. Maybe it will make you more 
money and give more aid and comfort to your fellow-man than 
delivering groceries, working in a garage, cooking, sweeping, or 
dishwashing. Maybe it will require posterity to decide whether 



you’re a third St Theresa (it was a servant girl who recently 
became a second one) or whether you’re merely a deluded servant 
girl trying to get on in the world; whether you re another St 
Francis of Assisi or merely the village idiot. If you’re sincere and 
care more about helping your fellow-man than you do about mak¬ 
ing a nickel you may go a long way. So many new mechanical 
gadgets have been invented and need to be mended that the 
human soul, which perhaps needs the most mending of all, is at 
a discount. The soul is the only gadget, so far as I know, that the 
International Correspondence School doesn’t teach you how to 
mend. That may be why so many incompetent and unskilled 
people try to do it. 

Every once in a while a great one, or potential great one, comes 
along. They usually emerge from obscurity. The most promising 
one in recent years was Krishnamurti, 1 but he got tired of being 
a ‘ World Saviour ’ and blew up. The most interesting one who 
hasn’t blown up is Father Divine (great white magician among 
the blacks). I’m paying him the compliment of leaving him out 
of this book because he puts honesty, industry, and the cardinal 
virtues ahead of magic. 

At the moment Jean Gauntt, the baby being coached by meta¬ 
physicians for immortality, is getting more publicity than any 
other candidate in this field. The Herald-Tribune launched her on 
November 27, 1939? with a baby picture and an article by a staff 
correspondent. Time has mentioned the baby several times, and 
on December 4, 1939, she occurred as follows in Time's column 
entitled “ Milestones ”: 

Adopted. Jean, five-month-old girl; by James Bernard Schafer, 
Messenger (headman) of the Royal Fraternity of Master Meta¬ 
physicians ; in Oakdale, L. I., Jean’s home will be the hundred- 
room Oakdale mansion (formerly William K. Vanderbilt’s) ac¬ 
quired by the R.F.M.M. last year (Time, July 11, 1938), who 
changed its name from Idle Hour to Peace Haven. A religious 
cult dedicated to Peace and practising a mixture of Rosicrucian- 
ism, Christian Science, Christianity, Supermind Science, and faith 
healing, the Fraternity will attempt to make Jean immortal by 
bringing her up in an environment where death and disease 
(called the products of destructive thinking) are not mentioned 
or thought about. She will attend metaphysics classes from the 
start, will be a vegetarian as soon as she can be taken off her 
special formula. 

The Herald-Tribune 's staff correspondent already mentioned 
wrote on November 26: 

Mr Schafer, a calm, soft-spoken metaphysician, believes that the 
child’s education can be so shaped that destructive thoughts will 
never enter her mind, and as a result she will be preserved from 
destruction—even destruction of the body. 

1 See pp. 266-271. 


Mr Schafer quoted the Bible, “ The last enemy to be destroyed 
is death,” and Mary Baker G. Eddy, founder of Christian Science, 
“ Death must be overcome, not submitted to.” While churches 
have taught immortality of the soul, he said, schools of truth, such 
as his fraternity, teach that immortality of the body is attainable as 

“ It isn’t a dream,” he said. “ All of us work from the stand¬ 
point of immortality of the body, but most students by the time 
they come to us have dissipated and ruined their lives. They have 
so much mental baggage that has to be unloaded. 

A baby has an empty brain. Well keep impressing on it the 
beauty of life and the side of life that we are trying to live. If 
the child doesn’t think anything that’s bad or destructive it can’t 
be torn down.” 

As evidence of the possibilities of metaphysics, Mr Schafer told 
of his own teacher, who, he said, “ is ’way over a hundred years 
old, though to look at him you wouldn’t think he was more than 
forty or fifty.” Mr Schafer would not disclose the name of his 

He also told of a man who broke his leg last week, and an hour 
later was cured and walking. “There isn’t a school of truth in 
existence that hasn t hundreds of seemingly miraculous cures in 
its files, he said, “ but what would be the use of talking about 
them? People wouldn’t believe it.” 

Mr Schafer has started proceedings for the formal adoption of 
baby Jean, and although he will be the legal foster-parent, all 
of the students who come to Peace Haven will take part in her 
education. The infant is a daughter of a couple who, according 
to Mr Schafer, were starving themselves to feed* her and were glad 
to have her brought up in the luxurious atmosphere of Peace 

This Long Island Shangri La is the no-room mansion built 
in 1901 by the late W. K. Vanderbilt at a cost of $2,500,000. Its 
great rooms are opulently furnished, there are tennis courts, a 
swimming pool, a squash court, saddle horses, archery ranges, a 
gymnasium, and other recreational facilities. Students, adepts, and 
master metaphysicians use the estate, Mr Schafer said, “as an 
auxiliary home,” and there are always from fifty to a hundred in 

It is in this atmosphere that baby Jean will grow up. She now 
has a trained nurse who also has had long experience in meta¬ 
physics. When she is a little older she will go on a vegetarian diet. 
She attends classes now, as IVIr Schafer says, “ to get the atmo¬ 
sphere.” Later she will be fortified against destructive influences 
by education. 

She will learn that there are such things as meat and alcoholic 
beverages and cigarettes, but she also will learn why they are to 
be avoided as destructive. She will learn that there is such a thing 
as death, but will be told that it is an unnecessary evil. “ She must 
be educated to understand everything,” Mr Schafer said. “ Where 

there’s ignorance there’s fear. Where there’s fear there’s destruc¬ 

Whether it was Dr Schafer’s own idea or a suggestion from the 



Daily Mirror I don’t know, but in December the ‘ immortal ’ 
baby was driven to the Ziegfeld Theatre in her own car, with her 
own chauffeur and private nurse, where the Mirror took pictures 
of her. The baby sat and behaved herself very well while Dr 
Schafer lectured to 1500 people. Afterwards he took Jean before 
the footlights and recited, “ Where do you come from, baby 
dear? ” Jean cooed in response and posed again for the photo¬ 
graphers. “ See,” said Dr Schafer, “ she isn’t afraid of the flash¬ 
bulbs. She will go on for ever.” 

The New Yorker has suggested that if she does she’ll probably 
end by being a bore to her great-great-great-grandchildren. 

Another gentleman who feels that we don’t need to die is Pre¬ 
ceptor Emeritus Edwin J. Dingle, F.R.G.S., of the Institute of 
Mentalphysics in Los Angeles. I dropped him a postcard, and 
had a letter in return. It was from his private office at 213 South 
Hobart Boulevard, and contained a pamphlet with a picture of 
administration offices and auditorium at Los Angeles; also a wood- 
cut of a Tibetan lamasery in the Himalayas. Or was it a pagoda? 
The letter was nice. Mr Dingle addressed me as his dear friend, 
and assured me that when he had heard from me he felt immedi¬ 
ately that I “ belonged.” He told me not only that God is within 
me, but that I, myself, little Willie Seabrook, am God in human 
form. He said this would amaze me, and it did. He goes on to 
tell me that I will be further amazed at the might of my power 
when I have learned more about it. He tells me that as I become 
skilled in my strange new power my own family (which consists 
of Marjorie, a Scottie, and three cats) and also my friends and 
acquaintances will be fascinated by the change in me. He’s got 
something there, I think Marjorie would be pleased to see any 
change. He says they will be astonished at the radiance of my 
countenance and the greater strength in my body. Maybe I’ll be 
able to drive over two hundred yards after I’ve tapped the reser¬ 
voir of power. He tells me I’m like a giant in the hands of a hyp¬ 
notist. He says the giant in me is made helpless, hypnotized by 
false ideas of my own weakness and by traditional notions of my 
own limitations. I’m a giant, but a sick giant. Mr Dingle tells 
me that he is a “ De-hypnotist.” He is a persuasive letter-writer. 
I got the impression that he was sincere, that he believed these 
things (or that somebody backing him did), and that he also be¬ 
lieves he can teach them. So did Dr Coue. So did Buddha, Con¬ 
fucius, Mohammed, and Jesus Christ. If Mr Dingle’s approach 
to the public is a bit more modern and more high-powered-sales- 
manship-mail-order style than theirs—well, this is a modern age, 
and mimeographed letters hadn’t been invented in the time of 
Confucius. If hey had Confucius might have used them. 

The pamphlet explains that he’s the author of a number of 
books, including Across China on Foot, China’s Revolution, Your 
Mind and Its Mysteries', that he is also editor of Dingle’s New 



Atlas and Commercial 1 Gazetteer of China, Bilingual Map of 
China, Far Eastern Products Manual. I can’t find him in the 
British Who's Who, or in the American Who's Who, but by faith 
we shall know him. 

This field is infested by quacks, crooks, and petty racketeers. 
So also are the fields of science, law, and medicine. But it’s by no 
means automatically true that all fakirs are fakers. Nor are all 
founders of new religions necessarily so ridiculous as at first they 
sometimes seem. 

The newspapers were inclined to poke mild fun at Gleb Botkin 
when he and his wife put a statue of the Venus de’ Medici on 
their bureau and started worshipping it. But when the World 
Telegram sent its staff writer, Douglas Gilbert, out to West Hemp¬ 
stead he refrained from any burlesquing. The World Telegram 
(November 15, 1939) gave his article the following headlines: 


Russian Gets Licence from State to Worship “ Sweetly 
Smelling, Laughter-loving ” Beauty 

This is what he wrote: 

Gleb Botkin, 38, a learned Russian, author of numerous books in 
English and son of the physician to the Czar—his father was 
murdered with the Emperor in the Red revolt—has founded a 
new religion. It is the Long Island Church of Aphrodite. 

It was incorporated Oct. 21, when Mr Botkin received his charter 
from the State Department of the State of New York, and was 
established May 6, 1938. He made its existence known to-day. 

He already has some thirty-five followers and about fifteen more 
are “ borderline.” They meet at his home, 55 Ivy St., West Hemp¬ 
stead, L. I., Fridays—Friday being Aphrodite’s day. 

There they discuss the new religion with its founder, who is the 
priest, and those who are earnest in their prophet’s belief adjourn 
later to a rear bedroom in his home and worship before Aphrodite’s 
altar, which he has erected on a bureau. 

The altar is a figure of the goddess, the post-Praxiteles art work 
known as the Venus of the Medici. It stands before a purple scarf 
or tapestry, and before it burn nine candles and incense. It is 
beautiful to look at and impressive in an eerie way. 

The members who thus assemble before the altar then recite 
their credo and chant a psalm, both written by Mr Botkin. The 
creed begins: 

I believe . in Aphrodite, the flower-faced, sweetly smelling, 
laughter-loving Goddess of Love and Beauty; the self-existent, 
eternal, and only Supreme Deity; creator and mother of the Cos¬ 
mos, the Universal Cause; the Universal Mind; the source of 
all life and all positive creative forces of nature; the Fountain 
Head of all happiness and joy. . . . 



The Psalm concludes: 

Blessed thou art, O beautiful goddess; and our love for Thee 
is like the sky which has no bounds; like eternity which has no 
ending; like thy beauty itself that no words could describe. For 
we love Thee with every atom of our souls and bodies, O Aphro¬ 
dite: holiest, sweetest, loveliest, most blessed, most glorious, most 
beautiful Goddess of Beauty. 

It is one of Mr Botkin’s cherished dreams some day to have 
a chapel. His religion, he says, is modishly ecclesiastical, and he 
will establish a consecrated clergy. 

As a priest Mr Botkin will wear mainly the Aphrodisian head¬ 
dress (it is shaped like a mitre), and already he has designed the 
Church of Aphrodite symbol. It is a cross, surmounted by a circle. 
The cross is significant of the love meeting of man and woman; 
the circle symbolizes eternity. 

Sex enters into the new religion of Mr Botkin, but only as an 
ideal, “ divine and wonderful.” It is no part of the ritual. He 
puts a halo on the expression, and in its discussion makes it sound 
like the necking of angels. 

Mr Botkin’s followers are no collection of orgiastic nudist nuts 
with vine leaves in their hair. Most of them are intellectual 
friends, he says, of broad-minded inquiry and tolerant acceptance. 
Some live in West Hempstead, some in New York, and a few 
believers are in Europe, with whom he has correspondence. He 
has had no inquiries from Los Angeles yet. 

Nor is Mr Botkin a prophet in a nightgown with a shepherd’s 
crook. He is a highly agreeable, well-spoken gentleman, giving 
every evidence of earnestness and faith. His face is lean and hand¬ 
some, often wrinkled in smiles, and a half-Hughesian beard en¬ 
hances his saintly, Messianic aspect. 

His wife is a pleasant lady in face and manner with prematurely 
whitish hair. They have five children, three sons and two daugh¬ 
ters. All are absolutely uninhibited, and it is a lovely thing to 
break bread with them. 

This reporter, informed of the charter grant to his church in 
Albany, called upon him unheralded. The Botkins have no tele¬ 
phone. He received us in his study, an alcove off the living-room 
containing a bookcase, a desk, a typewriter, a deep lounge chair, 
and a cot. 

He was apologetically reluctant to release information about his 
new church. 

“ I am afraid of its presentation,” he said, “ lest it attract neu¬ 
rotics and those emotionally unstable. But I shall some day have 
to do it, and I suppose it may as well be now.” 

He said that he had long been familiar with the Aphrodisian 
qualities that are found in most religions, and that he had nursed 
his own ideas about it while a novitiate for the priesthood in the 
Greek Catholic Church of Russia. 

He said this was the basis of his religion of Aphrodite: 

“ To seek and develop Love, Beauty, and Harmony, and to 
suppress ugliness and discord.” 

He said that his religion follows precisely the natural instincts 
of man and that Christianity often denies them. 

“ The Christian principle,” said Mr Botkin, “ is to suppress 



desires and to develop spirit. The religion of Aphrodite, with minor 
qualifications, is the antithesis of this. 

“ Sex, for example, is a divine function. But listen to this: in 
the Lambeth Conference in 1930 the Episcopal bishops stated, 
‘ Sexual relations are a regrettable necessity even when children 
are desired.’ And in reply to this the late Pope Pius XI deplored 
‘ the laxity of the Episcopal bishops.’ 

“ Marriage, within the Christian principle, ... is a compromise 
which is permissible when men can no longer stand celibacy. In 
the religion of Aphrodite the sex expression limits itself within 
the virtue of its sacredness.” 

When he is not involved in his Aphrodisian theories and faith, 
Mr Botkin works upon a book he is writing that is to interpret 
Russia since the fall of the Czar. Russia, not Nazi Germany, 
which is certain to be defeated, is the coming world problem, he 
says. But love will find a way. 

Hate, he says, is evil, and evil, in the Aphrodisian faith, is only 
the absence of good. Hate, selfishness, jealousy, are unnatural, he 

He put it quite poetically: “ A good gardener pulls up weeds 
not because he hates weeds but because he loves flowers.” 

The worship of Aphrodite, Isis, and Astarte was not ridiculous 
in Greece and ancient Egypt. It is perhaps a bit ridiculous within 
the shadow of Manhattan’s skyscrapers in 1941. If it is slightly 
ridiculous (i.e., a legitimate butt for slight ridicule) the ridiculous¬ 
ness is not intrinsic or inherent, but derives from the fact that Gleb 
Botkin’s worshipped statue is not merely an anachronism in time 
and space, but is also archaic. Our Lady of the Immaculate 
Conception at Lourdes seems equally anachronistic in a 1941 time- 
space spanned on our little globe by radio and transatlantic air¬ 
lines—but she is not archaic. She is a living sacred symbol to 
millions now alive. 

Fashions change in gods and goddesses, just as they do in white 
magicians; just as they did in the hats worn on earth by my aunt 
from Hawkinsville, Georgia, who now wears a halo, I hope. The 
Venus cult has gone the way of my late aunt’s hats. But the 
fashion for worshipping Mary and her Son has scarcely changed 
in two thousand years—and perhaps the world will be better if it 
never changes. 

Krishnamurti blew up as a world saviour when Mrs Annie 
Besant and the Theosophists, after grooming him for years to be 
Lord Jesus Christ’s and Lord Gautama Buddha’s successor, 
brought him, not for the first time, to New York on October 19, 
1931. Ship news reporters swarmed him. In his first authorized 
interview, carried on the morning of October 20 in the New York 
Herald-Tribune , New York Times, and by the Associated Press, he 
renounced Theosophy and repudiated Mrs Besant. 

Behind that unhappy landing lies a tangled story. I am not sure 
any of it disproves the possibility that Krishnamurti may have 



been a world saviour who might not have blown up. Here are 
all the known facts, in a sequence not always chronological, but 
pointing always backward and forward in time to the perhaps 
inevitable blow-up. 

On December 29, 1925, Mrs Annie Besant, then president of the 
Theosophical Society of the World, had announced at Adyar, 
Madras Province (Adyar being the home of the Society), that a 
“ world teacher ” had been reincarnated and would soon appear 
in the person of Jiddu Krishnamurti. Krishnamurti was a young 
Hindu, then about twenty-nine years old, who had been a protege 
of hers and of Bishop Charles W. Leadbeater’s since the age of 


I don’t need to tell you about Mrs Besant, on whose shoulders 
the great Blavatsky’s mantle had fallen. I can’t tell you much 
about Bishop Leadbeater, who died not many years ago. He was 
an Englishman whose past became interesting to the Herald- 
Tribune in the August of 1926, when Krishnamurti came to 
America. According to the Herald-Tribune of August 25, efforts 
had been made by u unknown persons ” to bar Krishnamurti s 
landing on the grounds that he was guilty of moral turpitude. 
The basis was that his former tutor, Bishop Charles W. Lead¬ 
beater, “ had often been accused and had confessed to immorali¬ 
ties.” The Herald-Tribune declared, “Bishop Leadbeater’s ex¬ 
ploits, trials, and reinstatements have convulsed the Theosophist 
order since 1906. Now, at the age of eighty [ 1926], the Bishop lives 
in Sydney, Australia, surrounded by adepts and novitiates in 
mystic orders.” 

The Herald-Tribune quoted Truth : 

Many readers of Truth will doubtless remember what was said 
here at the time as to the disreputable antecedents of one or two 
of these worthies. That they are not unfair samples of the crowd 
of disciples which Mrs Besant has gathered about her may be 
guessed from a scandalous affair that has just occurred in Holland. 

I don’t know what the “ scandalous affair ” in Holland was. The 
Herald-Tribune dropped the hot potato. The only additional 
knowledge I have of Bishop Leadbeater is that he was a cultured, 
supposedly homosexual gentleman, first and only Bishop of the 
Liberal Catholic Church, which was an affiliate of the Theoso¬ 
phist movement, and had nothing remotely to do with the Holy 
Roman Catholic Church. Bishop Leadbeater and the Liberal 
Catholic Church disappear quickly from this picture, which has 
been a headache to all orthodox Theosophists since it started to 
be painted. 

So far as anybody knows, Mrs Besant met Krishnamurti in 
India, when Krishnamurti was about twelve years old and was 
attending a Theosophic gathering with his widowed father and 
a younger brother. This was in 1908. Krishnamurti’s father was 
a magistrate’s clerk in India. Mrs Besant accepted the guardian- 



ship of the boy and his younger brother from their father, and 
promised to be responsible for their education, “ provided I was 
given entire control over the boys. The father gladly welcomed 
my offer and gave over the two to my care. From that year until 
1925, I remained their guardian, although they were, of course, 
legally free on their coming of age.” 

Mrs Besant apparently felt that the “ world teacher ” who had 
already manifested himself through the bodies of Jesus Christ, 
Buddha, and others, displacing their souls temporarily or perma¬ 
nently, would reveal himself again through Krishnamurti to an 
anxious and waiting world, particularly to Americans, Australians, 
and other “ white Pacific people.” 

In 1911 Mrs Besant founded the Order of the Star in the East, 
to further the work of preparing for the coming of the world 
teacher through the person of Krishnamurti. The brothers were 
brought to England and educated there. It was frequently pub¬ 
lished that Krishnamurti was educated at Oxford, but Mrs Besant 
declared that he went to Cambridge. In 1917 Krishnamurti was an 
ambulance driver with the British forces in France. 

Previously, in 1912, the boys’ father, J. Narayaniah, had sued 
both Mrs Besant and Bishop Leadbeater for recovery of his sons’ 
custody. Leadbeater’s part in the cause celebre in India is scarcely 
mentioned in newspaper reports later, since Mrs Besant at the 
time held the spotlight. 

The father’s petition alleged that Krishnamurti was being made 
the object of adoration by Theosophists because of Mrs Besant’s 
belief in his so-called mission. The petition also denounced Lead¬ 
beater for alleged immoralities. The highest courts in India ruled 
that the boys be restored to their father, after a lengthy trial, but 
the case was brought to the Privy Council, which reversed the 
previous decision and directed that Krishnamurti and his brother 
be kept in Mrs Besant’s custody, but hers alone. 

While resident in England an income was provided for Krishna¬ 
murti by a wealthy Englishman, for about ten years (1915-25). 
Authority for this was Fritz Kunz, of Hollywood, American head 
of the Order of the Star in the East, with headquarters in Holly¬ 
wood, in a 1926 newspaper interview. 

Although most papers give 1926 as the date of Krishnamurti’s 
first arrival in America, he was there at least once previously, and 
possibly twice. The New York Journal carried his photo prior 
to 1926 under a San Francisco date line, as en route to Bombay 
from there. Also he is supposed to have visited the United States 
in 1922. 

The December 1925 announcement of Mrs Besant’s endorse¬ 
ment of Krishnamurti caused a terrific backfire in London and 
Czechoslovak Theosophic circles. These groups broke away from 
the world body. Colonel C. L. Peacocke, president of the London 
Lodge, said, “ The disgraceful use being made of the Society by 
its present president, Mrs Annie Besant, for booming and adver- 



tising her own private beliefs and superstitions is driving out of the 
Society most of those who are genuine students and searchers for 
real theosophy.” 

It was shortly after the December 1925 announcement that 
Krishnamurti began his travels. He was in Paris in June of 1926, 
where he created a sensation. He then went on to London, and 
was accepted as world teacher by a vote (undoubtedly packed by 
Mrs Besant, since the London Lodge numbered but forty mem¬ 
bers) of six hundred to three. 

On June 17, 1926, James Montgomery Flagg drew a picture and 
wrote an article for the International News Service on his meeting 
with Krishnamurti (carried in the New York Journal), in which 
he waxed lyrical over the young Hindu. 

In July 1926 the first of a series of annual camps took place at 
Ommen, Holland, attended by two thousand pilgrims and dele¬ 
gates. While they heard him speak Krishnamurti was said to have 
been possessed by another who spoke in a different voice, in old 
English, for four or five minutes. Also, a huge star over Krishna¬ 
murti’s head was said to have burst into fragments which came 
raining down. Others were said to have seen elves, fairies, etc., 
during the camp. 

It was also declared that Krishnamurti’s body was being pos¬ 
sessed more and more frequently by the world teacher, and, accor¬ 
ding to Mrs Besant, the Christ, Buddha, etc., spirit would soon 
take permanent possession. 

Forrest Davis, writing for the Herald-Tribune, August 15, 1926, 
said of Krishnamurti: 

While always speaking well of the poor, [he] feels more comfort¬ 
able in the presence of safely invested wealth. He preaches 
a “ spiritual aristocracy,” but it may be surmised that a suggestion 
of regard for yet another sort of aristocracy underlies the phrase. 
This is no advent to the ragtag and bobtail. The street crowds 
may not shout Hosanna and spread palms before his motor-car, 
but many drawing-rooms will be opened to Krishnaji in New 
York and elsewhere. Here, as in London, people of consequence 
already are enlisted in the new faith. Women whose names adorn 
the Social Register, artists and bankers, joined to herald the com¬ 
ing of the Messiah a long while since. 

On Krishnamurti’s arrival in America on August 17, 1926, 
Mrs Besant declared that he had covered a total of 30,000 years 
during previous lives (not that he had lived that long, since a soul, 
after a body’s death, may wait even thousands of years for a new 
body, according to Theosophic lore) through reincarnation and/or 
transmigration of souls. Also he had passed through thirty-one 
separate and distinct reincarnations. The occasion of Krishna¬ 
murti’s visit ostensibly was a convention at Chicago. He was 
accepted almost in triumph, although cooler heads among the 
Christian clergy roundly denounced him and Mrs Besant for the 
pretensions to Christly honours. 



In Chicago crowds gathered about him in triumph, mostly Theo- 
sophists and curiosity seekers, and a newspaper story mentions that 
two boy scouts carried flowers before him. Krishnamurti spoke 
before a gathering of the Advertising Men’s Post of the American 
Legion at Chicago, which post accepted him as “ a regular fellow.” 

After this Chicago convention Krishnamurti was supposed to 
have gone into retirement. 

We next hear of him in America again when he came on 
April 9, 1928, after teaching in Europe and Asia. His journey this 
time was devoid of the tremendous fanfare of publicity that 
attended his supposedly first arrival. As previously mentioned, the 
1926 arrival may have been his third, certainly no less than his 

During his 1928 stay the ascetic Krishnamurti, with a more 
worldly outlook, was said to have told Beatrice Blackmar, in an 
interview about Katherine Mayo’s Mother India published in the 
New York World on May 6,1928, that “ India hasn’t too much sex. 
The poor devils haven’t enough of it. It is the last thine; in their 

In August 1929 the Order of the Star in the East held another 
annual camp at Ommen, in Holland. During its progress Krishna¬ 
murti threw a bombshell (New York Times, August 4, Associated 
Press) into the ranks of his followers when he announced the disso¬ 
lution of the Order of the Star in the East and (according to a later 
report) the return of all property and funds donated to the Order. 
Krishnamurti, in a story confused by the Press, was said to have 
given as his reason, among others, that truth could not he organ¬ 
ized. In the light of his later words it is fair to guess that he may 
have been disgusted with the whole business and felt that he had 
been made an unwitting tool by Mrs Besant to further her own 

He declared in his announcement of dissolution that “ religious, 
philosophical, and spiritual organizations are barriers to under¬ 
standing of the truth. The truth needs no disciples. It wants no¬ 
thing from any man. Only a few will understand, and they need 
no organization.” 

Krishnamurti explained that his Order had been preparing him 
for eighteen years to proclaim the truth, but said its members were 
not now willing to face the truth. 

“What, then, is the use of this organization?” he asked the 
three thousand attending pilgrims and disciples. 

On October 20, 1931, the New York Herald-Tribune carried the 
story that upon his arrival in New York the previous day he 
had told the reporters that he had renounced Theosophy and the 
representations made for him by Mrs Besant. He declared that 
because of his early mystical nature Mrs Besant had chosen him 
to become the vehicle of the world teacher, through revelation. 
Then later, as his mental faculties matured, he had seen the error 
into which he had been led, possibly by emotional ardour. He said 



that gradually he drifted away from the beliefs held by Mrs 
Besant, and, in fact, from Theosophy altogether. 

“ I learned that each of us must do his own thinking. The Deity 
.—the better life—lies within each and all of us. You cannot 
organize a system of truth; neither can you nor I set a religious 
standard for another.” 

He sailed for India in November, and then nothing more was 
heard about him, at least in New York, until September 5, 1934, 
when the United Press carried a story with a date line from Ojai, 
California, where one of the Star’s camps was formerly situated, 
and where Krishnamurti supposedly had a residence. The story, a 
short, was to the effect that Krishnamurti declared the world is 
heading for unbelievable catastrophe “ unless men learn to think.” 
The fact that the story came from one of Krishnamurti’s camps 
may sound confusing, but although he repudiated Mrs Besant and 
her teachings, Krishnamurti, in a New York Times short, dated 
March 5, 1930, when he was in New York, declared he had organ¬ 
ized schools in India through which he and his followers are 
spreading his philosophy by instilling it in youth. The Ojai, Cali¬ 
fornia, camp may have been conducted under similar auspices. 

In a March 12, 1935, story in the New York Herald-Tribune 
Krishnamurti lectured on March 11 at the Town Hall on “ Think 
for Yourself.” His talk was in part against previous conceptions, 
particularly of religion, and against ‘ leaders,’ particularly religious 

According to a Hetald-Tribune story dated May 31, 1936’ 
Krishnamurti, on arriving in New York on the previous day, 
advised his followers to mistrust all Messiahs and religious leaders. 
Previously he had lectured in South America for seven months. 

“It was just another cult, another ballyhoo, like any other 
church,” he said of the Order of the Star in the East. When he 
dissolved the Order he returned property and funds which had 
been contributed by disciples all over the world. 

“ I couldn’t tell people to beware of their exploiters and then 
exploit myself,” he said. “They still ask me about truth, and 
God and immortality, but I tell them they must learn for them¬ 
selves. You can’t point out paths to any of the real things in life. 
And, besides, the only thing I really know is myself.” He spoke at 
the Town Hall. He declared he had no message, nor dogmas. The 
1936 clipping is the last the New York Times or Associated Press 
has on him. 

Still a young man, he is living to-day in Hollywood, a friend of 
the Aldous Huxleys and other intellectuals, respected and well 
liked, seldom appearing in public and never courting publicity. 
I believe he was, and possibly still is, a potentially great man. 

I suspect that if the Lord Gautama Buddha, Moses, Mohammed, 
Confucius, had fallen into the hands of Annie Besant and Bishop 
Leadbeater they also would have fallen down, gone boom, and 
ended their days in Hollywood. 



Pierre Bernard (Oom the Omnipotent) first burst into the 
public eye in the U.S.A. in 1910 when he was arrested by New York 
police on charges brought by two girls, Zella Hopp, eighteen, and 
Gertrude Leo, nineteen. The case was dropped after full investiga¬ 
tion by the district attorney. The girls had refused to back up 
their accusations. They had apparently gone to the police through 
motives of jealousy. No indictment was then or ever has been 
brought against the man who later became famous in his peculiar 
field. Bernard, on arriving in New York late in 1909, had opened 
the New York Sanskrit College at 250 West 87th Street, but the 
venture was unsuccessful. Two or three years later he bobbed up 
in Leonia, New Jersey, where he met a Mile De Vries, a profes¬ 
sional dancer of exceptional ability. It was really this meeting, as 
events bear out, that started him on his road towards success. He 
married Mile De Vries, taught her Oriental dances, and not long 
afterwards she gained the attention of various society women 
through her “ health system of Tantrum/' She is given credit for 
first enlisting the attention of the then Mrs Ogden L. Mills, 1 
daughter of Mrs W. K. Vanderbilt. De Vries became Bernard’s 
high priestess at the Nyack mansion and estate, which he estab¬ 
lished in 1919, under the name of the Brae Burn Club. 

In 1927, at Nyack, a ceremony was held to celebrate the tenth 
wedding anniversary of a Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, couple, two of 
Bernard’s devotees. This was the notorious “ coffin ceremony.” As 
related by an anonymous witness (in Hearst’s Sunday American, 
magazine section, May 15, 1927): 

For this ceremony, which was mystically a marriage as well as 
an anniversary, the ‘ bride ’ and ‘ groom ’ were dressed as at their 
first wedding. The girls and women of the cortege wore the 
robes and veils of nuns, covering brilliant and fantastic costumes 
beneath. The men wore the robes and cowls of monks, covering 
up equally gay and fantastic costumes in which they were to ap¬ 
pear later. 

All carried tall candles, like a procession in a cathedral. 

Immediately behind the bride and groom were carried two cof¬ 
fins. The coffins were the symbol of the dead and the burying 
of the past. 

Afterwards the coffins were covered with gay draperies and 
used as tables for an elaborate banquet, while the monks and nuns 
put off their sombre religious habits and reappeared as gay 

In 1929, on September 8, a “ society circus ” was staged at 
Nyack. Featured was the “ Dance of the Dead,” in which Mile 
De Vries, Bernard’s wife, co-cultist and high priestess, arose from 
a coffin to do her dance. She wore a veil and executed a series of 

1 Margaret Rutherford was at one time the most fashionable member 
of the colony of Oom. She is now married to Frederick Leybourne Sprague, 
a portrait painter of Manasquan, N.J. 



serpentine exercises featured by twistings and writhings of the 
body. Meanwhile she solemnly chanted: 

“ That man has the whole world, 

He has me, he has you, 

He has all of us now, 

He has the whole world in his hands.” 

Bernard then did an exotic solo all his own. 

He also did a dancing speciality with a baby elephant. The 
animal was said to be a sacred elephant of India. The American 
reporter termed the dance “ The Barbers’ Itch.” 

To join the inner circle of the Secret Order of Tantriks, which 
wealthy people were invited to join, the man or woman must first 
have confessed to Bernard—as high priest—all sins, all secret 
desires, all inner thoughts; must then promise to abide by his 
decision; must finally take the Tantrik vow. 

In this inner circle, according to a woman who had lived in the 
Nyack colony, Oom was more than a high priest—he became, in 
the opinion of his followers, a sort of man-god. He is costumed 
as a high priest, and his devotees, garbed usually as his worshippers 
and followers, sing the Tantrik hymn: 

“ Be to me a loving guru [teacher]; 

Be a loving Tantrik guru.” 

Then the initiates kneel as in a church and sing in a monotone, 
“ Oom ma na padma oom.” 

It is sung repeatedly in a chanting monotone, like the beating 
of drums in a forest, and is supposed, if kept up long enough, to 
induce a state of ecstasy. 

The secret of Bernard’s powers, it has been stated, seems to be 
to give his followers a new conception of love. At the time he met 
Mile De Vries at Leonia, New Jersey, she is supposed to have told 

Half the domestic tragedies, three-fourths of the divorces, many 
of the nervous breakdowns, and not a few suicides and murders 
in America are due to the inherent ignorance and stupidity of the 
average Anglo-Saxon man or woman on the subject of love. We 
will teach them—and maybe make our adventure a great success. 

Winfield Nicholls, an adherent of Bernard’s who subsequently 
married into the Vanderbilt clan, gave an interview to New York 
newspapers, in the course of which he said: 

Under Dr Bernard we tried to work out a sensible scheme of 
balanced living. We tried to face all the facts of nature and life 
and art with eyes open and unafraid. But we never overempha¬ 
sized any of our functions or capabilities for happiness more than 
was its due. We admitted love, but all things else as well, 



Bernard’s principal aims are said to be “to teach men and 
women to love, and make women feel like queens.” 

In May of 1931 (World Telegram of May 7, 1931), after a two- 
year study of Bernard, Dr Charles Francis Potter, Liberal New 
York City minister and founder of “ Humanism,” announced he 
was writing a serious biography of Bernard. Dr Potter had made 
his residence in Nyack since 1929. 

Bernard claimed that he was doing pioneer work in human 
body-building and character-training. Potter “began to under¬ 
stand ” why Bernard was called “ Omnipotent Oom ” after talking 
with many people “ whom he had brought back to health and 
strength after they had decided life was not worth while.” 

His original methods of dealing with defeated personalities 
interested Potter, and he found Bernard “ combined knowledge of 
age-old Indian methods of curing disease of mind and body with 
the best of Western methods, plus a refreshing amount of common 

Said Dr Potter, “ I was reminded again and again of the lives 
of the great religious leaders of the past whom I had studied for 
my book on ‘ The Story of Religion.’ Dr Bernard has all the ear¬ 
marks of genius.” 

Mrs W. K. Vanderbilt is said to have contributed to Bernard’s 
work. Her two daughters by a previous marriage, Barbara and 
Margaret Rutherford, became disciples of Bernard and his Nyack 
cult and married followers of the cult. Margaret had been previ¬ 
ously divorced from Ogden L. Mills, and Barbara from Cyril 
Hatch. Barbara became Mrs Winfield Nicholls when she married 
the right-hand man of Bernard. 

Other of Bernard’s disciples included Baron Droste von Knob¬ 
lauch, Marshall Bartholomew, Mrs Samuel N. Holliday, Mrs 
Charles B. Alexander, Mrs Chalmers Wood, Jr., Diana Hunt Wer- 
theim, Dorothy Just, Christopher Hervey, Charles Wood, Jr., and 
Mrs Wood, E. T. Dana, grandson of Longfellow. 

More recently (1939), Lou Nova, a heavyweight pugilist of con¬ 
siderable prominence, allegedly trained under the sponsorship of 
Bernard, Yoga methods and all. Pictures of Nova in Yoga postures 
appeared in the newspapers of New York. He was matched to 
fight Tony Galento. Galento knocked the disciple of Yoga cold 
in a Philadelphia ring. 

Dr Potter declares (World Telegram ) that he admires Bernard’s 
unusual qualities and completely disbelieves current stories about 
him. He plans in his book, he says, to “ contrast the bizarre myth 
of 1 Oom ’ as built up in newspaper accounts with the real facts of 
the man’s life and character as I have come to know them.” 

Potter termed Bernard a 

man both prophet and showman, who could lecture on religion 

with singular penetration and could with equal facility stage a 

big circus, manage a winning ball team, or put on an exhibition of 



magic which rivalled Houdini. He knows the human body, an¬ 
atomically and psychologically, in a way to amaze veteran surgeons 
and psychological experts. He delights to visit a seance incognito, 
and after the medium has done her best he produces phenomena 
which make her call in fright for the lights. 

Reports that Bernard’s club was a love cult and that mysterious 
orgies took place there from time to time, said Dr Potter, “ differed 
so greatly from my own impression of the place that I investigated 
further. I asked why Dr Bernard had not contradicted the 
astounding stories about him and the club. The reply was that his 
policy was never to give interviews and never to correct false 

stories/’ # . 

The club members were professional and business men and 

women of New York, Potter found, of an unusually healthy and 
happy sort. 

The New York police, who used to visit the Nyack place occa¬ 
sionally, have never issued any such encomiums—but must be at 
least in pragmatic accord with Dr Potter, since no action ever fol¬ 
lowed any of the visits. 

Magic pentagrams and circles occur for good and bad among 
all groups, from time immemorial, who seek contact with the infi¬ 
nite—whether to use it as a harmful weapon (as do witches) or as 
a haven and sanctuary from kitchen and dining-room boredom, as 
do our ladies of the Eastern Star in Rhinebeck. 

I should like it if they or my witch-friends could tell me why 
God, beauty, power, or a werewolf could be enticed or stopped or 
captured more quickly in a circle-shaped or star-shaped trap than 
in one shaped like the hat of my late aunt from Hawkinsville. All 
they have ever been able to explain is that, since God, power, were¬ 
wolves, have been enticed, stopped, or trapped in stars and circles 
drawn like these from the time of the early Egyptians these must 

be the best traps. , 

They probably are—because they are the most tried and used, 

for good and bad—whether to entice gods or cozen devils. 

The British scolded Crowley, and made him seem more mon¬ 
strous by showing that the altar on which the wretched cat died 
was a pentagram. Intrinsically A. C/s altar is as innocent as that 
of our ladies in Rhinebeck. It’s never the shape of the altar that 
makes it good or bad. What sacrifices you offer and what you do 
around it make it good or bad. If Gertrude Stein had impaled 
pussycats on the thorns of her magic circle of roses it could e- 
come as wicked as any magic circle Gilles de Retz stood in when 

he cut babies’ throats. _ . 

Since, instead, Gertrude Stein has stood inside her magic circ e 
only to tell the rest of us—who have mostly forgotten it that a 
rose is a rose, I feel that the sweetest magic circle ever swirled was 


27 6 

her rose circle. It looks lovely, and it doesn’t tell us any more than 
we ever need to know. 

Those given here and in the following pages will show you that 
they are all intrinsically similar: 

A. •. A . •. Publication in Class E 

aleister crowley’s pentagram and its 


This is the circle inside which the pussycat was slain—or was it? 

Nostradamus was again a best-seller in Paris in 1939, accord¬ 
ing to the New Yorker’s cable letter of October 29. He has never 
ceased to be a best-seller in Arles and St Remy. When I went to 
St Remy in 1907 everybody in the workmen’s restaurant told me 
there would be a world war within ten years “ because Nostra¬ 
damus had said so.” 

When I went back there in 1932 they were still reading their 
local prophet, and told me there would be another world war 
within another ten years “ because he had said so.” 

Maybe he had glimpses through the slit in time. Maybe he has 
merely had good breaks since his demise. His dates always have 
the advantage of vagueness in the original script, no matter how 
specifically his believers apply them, and if you’re sufficiently 
vague or flexible about dates the surest way to become a major 
prophet is to predict war as the ancestral voices did in Kubla Khan. 
It always comes, and here’s what the New Yorker said about this 
particular prophet this time: 

The author of the current best-seller in Paris is Michel Nostra¬ 
damus, the astrologer who died in 1566. Nostradamus left about 
five thousand lines of prophecy in a crabbed mixture of French and 

O. T. O. 

3sftsucB ij Met: 








A 05 *** 







Please study it and note that the pentagram (star) shines with 
a pure, beautiful religious light. 




what New Yorkers would call “ double talk ”—each quatrain lends 
itself to dozens of conflicting interpretations. He has been the ob¬ 
ject of a tiny cult for a long time, but became an important pub¬ 
lishers’ item only when war began. You can buy small condensed 
versions of his prophecies on the bookstalls for two francs or a 
large annotated definitive edition by a Dr de Fontbrune for thirty 
at the big bookstores; the Boulevard des Italiens branch of Flam- 
marion alone has sold three thousand copies of the expensive 
edition in the last month. 

In one prophecy Nostradamus speaks of the destruction of Paris 
by “ birds from the East.” Some Nostradamists held that his fore¬ 
cast was for 2040, while others believed it was intended for 1937, in 
which case Nostradamus, like the German General Staff, missed 
the boat. All adepts agreed that the astrologer predicted an over¬ 
whelming French victory. 


Chapter IV 

Blanking the mind, negative way, simply relaxing, as cats and 
animals do when at ease, is the first step in the direction which 
leads deeper when used by Mary Craig or my dervishes. It is a 
method of mental therapy which is beginning to receive deserved, 
renewed attention in our overhurried modern world. A useful 
technique is described by Alan Devoe in Coronet, June i 939 > c 0 ] 1- 
densed October 1939 in the Reader’s Digest. Mr Devoe says, in 

To see how grievously ignorant we have become, it is only 
necessary to observe the pathetic behaviour of men and women 
who have escaped from their jobs for a while and are earnestly 
trying to idle. Playing golf, tossing a medicine ball, driving an 
automobile, hiking, dancing—these furious pursuits are not proper 
ingredients for successful idleness. Nor is even the man who is 
raking autumn leaves or weeding his delphiniums or strolling with 
a friend practising idleness. He is engaging, to be sure, in pleas¬ 
ant and agreeable occupations. But he is not idling. 

The recipe for idleness is simple; it consists of the abeyance of 
physical strain and cessation of purposeful thinking. It requires 
that you allow yourself to become for a while as purposeless as 
a maple leaf or a stone, that you abandon those restless biddings 
and nagging energies with which civilization has infected you, and 
that you exchange the fatiguing habits of planned activity and 
planned thinking for a directionless and unguided drifting of the 
spirit. It requires, in a word, that you do nothing. 

Look, some time, at a relaxing tiger or fox; look at your cat. 
Those calm unseeing eyes are fixed on nothing; those muscles 
lie as quiet as stone; the usual preoccupations have been utterly 
stilled. The animal is idling. It is an experience as natural to him 
as eating or sleeping—but it is something which you will have to 
learn. And when you have learned it a whole new world of sen¬ 
sation will be opened to you, a world of such peace and subtle 
awareness as you have never previously known, a realm which has 
unmatched powers for refreshing the weary human spirit. 

Make your first try at idleness now. When you have finished 
the brief paragraphs that follow put the magazine aside and 
consciously call a halt to all the little movements which you have 
absent-mindedly been making—the foot-tapping, the nervous eye¬ 
winking, the drumming of fingers on your chair-arm. While you 
were reading, your breathing was quick and shallow, typical rhythm 
of our over-hurried days. Relax your lungs. Breathe deeply, 
slowly. A curiously pleasant feeling, isn’t it? 

If you wear glasses, remove them. That little pressure on the 
bridge of your nose is a distraction and vexation. And so is the 
binding tightness of your belt, and the constriction of your collar. 
Loosen them. Lie back now and be at rest. Do not attempt to 
follow any train of thought. Your thinking is going to be wholly 
purposeless now. Your spirit is going to drift and wander as it 

Presently dim half-thoughts and recollections and awareness will 



stir in your newly freed consciousness. Because the tyranny of 
Thought and the tyranny of Action are alike in abeyance now, 
your spirit has a chance to be aware of, say, the fragrance of the 
flowers in that vase. The fragrance has been subtly in the room 
all day, but your spirit has not been free to savour it. Breathe that 
fragrance deep into your lungs, for to a drifting spirit it can be 
magically evocative. And now another awareness has come to you 
'—the feel of that ray of sunlight on your hand. The world has 
somehow become not quite so bad, with the scent of flowers in 
your nostrils and the feel of sunlight on your flesh. 

Drift on, and be at peace. How odd a music the buzzing of 
that fly. How breathtakingly blue that patch of sky. The feel of 
the chair against your relaxed muscles is a kind of benison, and 
the slow deep drawing of your breath has wrought a singular 
peace. Oblique and fragmentary recollections come to you . . 
the smell of the sea that year in Maine, the look of the deer-tracks 
you once saw in a snowy wood, the remembered flash of pheas¬ 
ant-wings on a hazy October afternoon. You have wholly entered 
now, at last, into that lovely secret realm which is the habitation 
known only to masters of the art of idleness. To restore yourself 
to the quiet ways of life is an art worth learning. 

By Mr Devoe’s technique you step through the first door leading 
into the antechamber of the secret realm which can only be pene¬ 
trated further by the complete, difficult, and sometimes dangerous 
blanking of the mind as taught by Eastern mystics and practised 
rarely in the Western world. 

Upton Sinclair's Mental Radio pictures include those shown 
at pp. 283-285, reproduced with his permission. The drawing at the 
left is the original, and what Craig wrote or drew is at its right. 
In two of the instances here shown—the fork and the star—she got 
it exactly. There were many such cases. But the ones which 
excited me most are those such as the subsequent instances, in 
which she seemed to see it partially but not exactly, and not com¬ 

Bishop Arthur A. Ford, of the Spiritualist Church, first attrac¬ 
ted general notice in the New York Times, October 10,1927, during 
the course of a debate between him and the famous stage magician 
Howard Thurston, at Carnegie Hall. Several months later, on 
February 10,1928 (New York Times, February 11), almost one and 
a half years after Harry Houdini had died, Ford, in a spiritualist 
stance at his home—315 West 97th Street—declared that he had 
received a message from Houdini’s mother containing the code 
word * forgive/ which was to be evidence that there was a life after 
death. This word had supposedly been agreed upon between 
Houdini and his mother, who died in 1913, as the symbol of future 
life. However, after due investigation, it appeared that Houdini’s 
wife had revealed in detail the ‘ after-life ’ agreement between her 
husband and his mother in an interview in the Brooklyn Eagle 



dated March 13, 1927, Ford declared he knew nothing of the 
interview. On January 9, 1929, in a trance at Mrs Houdini’s home 
at 67 Pay son Avenue, New York City, Ford, as minister of the 
First Spiritualist Church, declared he had received a message from 
Harry Houdini himself. Houdini’s friends were not at all im¬ 
pressed. Joseph Rinn went so far as to offer Ford ten thousand 
dollars if he were able to repeat the substance of a conversation 
Rinn had held with Houdini in 1926 at the New York Hippo¬ 
drome. Also, Remigius Weiss, of 954 North 5th Street, Philadel¬ 
phia, declared Houdini had left with him a secret code, different 
from Mrs Houdini’s code. Incidentally, a twenty-one-thousand- 
dollar reward was up for the medium who could communicate suc¬ 
cessfully with Houdini. Ford’s alleged message, which attracted 
great attention at the time, spelled, when deciphered, “ Believe,” 
the word arranged before Houdini’s death as proof of life after 
death. Only his wife supposedly was aware of the word. 

At the time it was reported that Mrs Houdini was convinced 
that Ford had indeed been in communication with her dead hus¬ 
band, but later she resented and repudiated the whole affair. She 
and her husband had an open mind regarding the possibility of 
life after death, as was evident in her attempts at communication. 
Mrs Houdini was disappointed in her hopes, and Ford did not 
claim the twenty-one thousand dollars offered for ‘life-after¬ 
death ’ communication with Houdini. 

On January 24, 1929, the spiritualist world was startled to hear 
that Ford was suspended from the Manhattan group of the United 
Spiritualist League because he had been guilty of “ conduct unbe¬ 
coming a Spiritualist minister ” in the Houdini stance two weeks 
previously. The action was taken, according to the president of 
the group, on the basis of newspaper investigations of the message 
supposedly received by Ford from Houdini. But John Heis 
(Heiser?), president of the executive board of the league, declared 
that no evidence had been presented against Ford and had op¬ 
posed the action on grounds that it violated bylaws of the group. 

On February 24, one month later, Ford was cleared of the 
charges by the board of trustees of the First Spiritualist Church, 
headed by the John Heis mentioned previously, who was also head 
of the New York State group. 

At his vindication hearing Ford announced that rumours had 
been circulated to the effect that he had been requested to leave 
England by prominent spiritualists. He offered a reward of a thou¬ 
sand dollars to anyone who could prove the truth of these rumours. 
On February 27 Ford went on a tour of the mid-Western United 
States, and in the summer of that year was to go on a European 
tour with Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. A climax to the Houdini-Ford 
controversy was furnished on October 31, 1936, ten years after 
Houdini’s death, when, after elaborate preparations had been 
made in Hollywood by Mrs Houdini to communicate if possible 
with her departed husband's spirit, the spirit refused to communi- 



cate. On November 12, on her way East, Mrs Houdini, at Little 
Rock, Arkansas, confided to the Associated Press that she was 
“ firmly convinced that communication with the dead is a human 
impossibility, and I challenge any medium who proclaims tangible 
proof.” In 1938 a picture, Religious Racketeer, with Mrs Houdini 
featured, was produced by an independent Hollywood woman pro¬ 
ducer, Fanchon Royer Gallagher. It treated of the attempt two 
years previously to communicate with Houdini’s spirit, and ex¬ 
posed methods allegedly used by spiritualists. 

On June 21, 1936, the Associated Press, from Buffalo, carried a 
story to the effect that spiritualists had begun a drive to eliminate 
racketeering in the movement. Substance of the report was that 
Ford, elected president of a new international group embracing 
“ several hundred ” churches in Canada, the United States, Mexico, 
and Cuba, as head of the General Assembly of Spiritualists in 
America (headquarters at Buffalo) aimed to “ eliminate the racket¬ 
eering element in spiritualism and protect not only ourselves but 
the public.” Incidentally, this was supposed to be the fortieth 
annual convention of the group. Ford was now leader of a great 
part of the spiritualist movement in North America. He also 
stated that the new organization would co-operate with police 
in driving charlatans out of business. He declared that “ a real 
medium will have papers from the assembly and always will be 
a member of a local church. An examining board will test appli¬ 
cants, and educational standards will be high.” 

At an International General Assembly of Spiritualists meeting 
at Baltimore (Associated Press, October 28, 1937), Ford, as presi¬ 
dent, declared that spiritualists would consider endowing a school 
for mediums and lecturers. The purpose, he declared, would be 
to “ tighten up the restrictions on the profession and eliminate 

In a Brooklyn Eagle interview with John J. O’Neill on October 
27, 1931, Ford had claimed to have been in communication with 
the spirit of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, who through Ford corrected 
proofs of his biography then in the process of being published, 
written by the Rev. John Lamond, D.D. Ford also claimed that 
one year previously Doyle had communicated through him to 
Lady Doyle that the book was to be written by Lamond. This 
took place during Ford’s 1931 European tour. In a World Tele¬ 
gram interview with George Britt dated June 21, i 933 q Eord s 
education was said to have been “ orthodoxly theological. Britt 
also stated that Ford wrote short stories and articles under spiritual 
influence. Most of his stories were sold to the Ghost Stories type 
of magazine. Through his spirit connexions Britt said Ford had 
told him Ford had escaped financial loss in the 1929 Wall Street 
crash, and therefore had become a much-sought-after adviser of 

On the night of March 21-22, 1935, Ford arranged a stance in 
an aeroplane doing a flight over Newark airport. Fie had fourteen 



guests, including representatives of Associated Press. He claimed 
that he had heard Doyle, Wilbur Wright, and Roald Amundsen, 
the explorer. An Associated Press man remarked that Amundsen 
had forgotten his Norse accent during the seance . 

During Ford’s October 9, 1927, debate with Thurston at Carnegie 
Hall Ford had explained his Spiritualist Church’s teachings as 

Their central dogma was the immortality of the soul and pray¬ 
ing for the infidels within the gate. Ford also declared that the 
study of psychic phenomena would solve the problem of the 
crowded lunatic asylums. He said, “ A great many inmates of our 
asylums were committed for acts for which they were not respon¬ 
sible. By studying psychic laws and how to control obsessions we 
can return a great majority of the insane to normal existence. In 
California I saw three persons released from an asylum when they 
were released from the control of the low spirits which possessed 
them. In Michigan the number of inmates has been reduced by 
such studies. The phenomena of modern spiritualism are no dif¬ 
ferent from the phenomena recorded by great religious leaders of 
the past. Jesus demonstrated the same psychic powers which the 
mediums of to-day demonstrated, but of course their powers are 
of a much lower order.” 

Asked how he received the spirit messages, Ford has said, “ I 
hear them, but ‘ hear ’ is not the correct word to describe their 
reception, because if I just heard them in the ordinary way you 
would hear them at the same time I did. I don’t know where the 
impression is picked up, but the effect on my mind is the same 
as if the sounds were picked up by my ear and carried to my 
brain in the ordinary way.” 

After preaching a sermon at the Universalist Church of the 
Divine Paternity, Central Park West and 76th Street {New York 
Times , May 7, 1934), “ the Rev. Arthur A. Ford, general missionary 
of the General Assembly of the Spiritualist Movement in America 
.. . gave a demonstration of spiritualism ” on the steps leading to 
the chancel of the church. He communicated messages which he 
said came from various deceased relatives of the church’s mem¬ 
bers. He called out names, asking if they were recognized by any¬ 
one present. When response was given—and in most cases it was 
given—he said the spirit of the person named was standing near 
him and had a message. In most cases the communication was 
that the departed one was very happy and sent his or her love. 
While speaking Ford also included names of other members of 
the families of which he was speaking and also some details about 
the age and appearance of the departed persons. His demonstra¬ 
tion was received warmly. 

Ford says about thirty million people throughout the world be¬ 
lieve in spiritualism. “ Our greatest enemy has been the Church,” 
Ford also declared. “ We do not believe there ever were any 
miracles. They seemed miracles at the time because they were not 



understood. Every day we find things which we cannot under¬ 
stand, and they remain that way until some one comes along who 
can explain them to us. Spiritualism is a scientific fact which has 
conclusively proved that it is possible at certain times and under 
certain conditions to contact with the dead.” 

A feature of the Buffalo convention in 1936 was the demonstra¬ 
tion of “ mental mediumship—psychometry, clairaudience, and 
clairvoyance.” Psychometry was defined as “ a spiritualist touch¬ 
ing a body so as to take on its vibrations.” 

From all available data Ford claims he is in touch with spirits 
of the dead, can transmit, to a certain extent, messages from them 
to others through his mediumship, and can foretell the future. 

Any number of prominent people are followers of spiritualism. 
Wall Street men with well-known names and a State Supreme 
Court justice are among Ford’s secret followers. If anybody could 
foretell the future on Wall Street he could own Wall Street or 
wreck it. If anybody could foretell a jury’s verdict we’d have to 
invent something new to take the place of courts. 

At the last Buffalo convention the following faithful were re¬ 
vealed as officials of Dr Ford’s assembly: Mrs M. S. McGuire, of 
Toronto, vice-president; F. W. Constantine, of Buffalo, secretary; 
Robert B. Collup, of Akron, Ohio, treasurer; Dana McHenry, Los 
Angeles, second vice-president. Other names gleaned were: Dr 
F. A. Wiggin, of Boston; Dr Alexander J. Mclvor-Tyndall, of 
London, orator of the movement, supposedly controlled by the 
spirit of Joseph Jefferson; a Dr George A. Lingenbach, of Pitts¬ 
burgh or suburb. At a conservative guess there are close on a 
million believers in spiritualism in the United States. 

Chapter VI 

One Swami who knew these implications was the Tibetan abbot 
Chao-kung, known in America as Timothy Lincoln, born origin¬ 
ally in a Jewish-Hungarian village, where he was first known as 
Ignatius Trebitsch. 

From his Tibetan monastery, with the help of the United Press 
and cables, he hurled on December 19, 1939, an ultimatum to the 
world, from the Sax Rohmer masters of the world, which 
impressed the New York Herald-Tribune sufficiently (whether 
ironically or not is their own business) to run it, with his picture, 
under the captions: 


The sub-head said: 






The dispatch follows: 

SHANGHAI, Dec. 19 (United Press).—The Abbot Chao-Kung, 
once known as Ignatius Timothy Trebitsch Lincoln, former pas¬ 
tor, member of the British House of Commons and international 
spy, announced to the world to-day that unless the Governments 
of the chief European belligerent countries resigned at once so that 
a peace conference could be held the Tibetan Buddhist “ supreme 
masters ” would eliminate them from the scene of action by un¬ 
leashing forces against which there was no defence. 

This, the Abbot said, was his final appeal for peace. He had 
made a preliminary one, in anticipation of the war, in the spring 
of 1939. 

Emerging from the Buddhist retreat in which he has secluded 
himself for several years, the Abbot demanded that the British, 
French, German, and Russian Governments resign simultaneously 
and immediately. He exempted Finland. New Governments must 
be formed, the Abbot said, and they must call a world-wide peace 

“ Otherwise,” he warned, “ the Tibetan Buddhist supreme mas¬ 
ters, without prejudice, pre-direction, or favour, will unchain forces 
and powers whose very existence is unknown to you and against 
whose operations you are consequently helpless.” 

World leaders, Trebitsch Lincoln pointed out, were mere human 
beings, subject to all human limitations. The sole exceptions, he 
said, were the Buddhist “ supreme masters, who, by their unlimited 
and unbounded knowledge of nature’s secrets and their ability to 
use certain powers, have broken through those limitations.” 

The United States, he said, could have prevented the European 
war, but chose to follow the path of “ open partiality, prejudice, 
and downright injustice, cloaked in phrases which pretended to be 
all that is virtuous.” 

The British, French, Russian, and German Governments were 
all guilty of provoking the war, he said. 

Discussing the Chinese-Japanese war, he said that regardless of 
its background Japan was willing to discuss peace, but China con¬ 
tinued its “ insane scorched-earth policy.” 

Trebitsch Lincoln, born a Jew about fifty-eight years ago, left 
his native Hungarian village to seek his fortune in England. He 
entered the Church of England and became a curate, then entered 
politics and was elected to the House of Commons as a Liberal. 
He became wealthy in oil promotion ventures. 

He was made a censor in the British Post Office at the outbreak 
of the World War, but after a period during which, the British 
alleged, he tried to act as a secret agent for Britain and Germany, 
he fled to the United States. Britain extradited him, and kept him 
in prison until the War ended. 

He was deported, went to Germany, and played a big part in 



the Kapp Putsch of 1921, when conspirators seized Berlin. Some 
years later he turned up in China to become a Buddhist monk. 

Born Ignatius Trebitsch, he added the name Lincoln because 
Abraham Lincoln was his boyhood ideal. 

Native Tibetan abbots, monks, adepts, and Western converts of 
theirs have been suggesting for centuries that they could and can 
do these things. The chief basis of my scepticism is that they never 
have. I think the stuff is as shining bright if not as hot as lightn¬ 
ing was on Franklin’s kite string, but I keep wondering if there is 
any power in it, since up to now it has only given fox fire. 

Chapter VII 

Dervish dangling’s equivalents among the Eskimos are 
described in detail by Peter Freuchen in Arctic Adventure. The 
American Museum of Natural History has a number of prints 
illustrating these various ways in which the Eskimo mystics and 
wizards lie bound to induce trance-states and excursions into the 
realm of the supernormal. Mr Freuchen says: 

The old man, Sorqaq, who was also hunting in the district, an¬ 
nounced that he would attempt a journey to the nether world. 
... He had met the devil and conquered him—perhaps he could 

do it again. 

At any rate, his preparations for descent proved his honesty. 
He fasted until his interior was completely cleaned out, examining 
his excrement until he was satisfied with his state. After three 
days he announced himself ready for the journey, and the time of 
departure was set for the following night. The old man mean¬ 
while climbed high into the mountains seeking solitude to formu¬ 
late his speech to the spirits and to train himself to swim through 
the rocks—which he would most certainly have to penetrate m 
order to meet the devil. 

A huge igloo was constructed by adding many blocks 01 snow 
to the largest house in the settlement. Several men worked at it, 
and the snowblocks were cut by the elders who realized the seri¬ 
ousness of the undertaking. After it was finished the inside was 
draped with a tapestry of old tent skins. Sorqaq inspected the 
stage which was to witness his marvels, said nothing, and departed 
for further meditation. 

Presently the natives were requested to gather and were led to 
their places by Krilerneq, Sorqaq’s assistant. Krilerneq himself was 
an old man, but with the aid of a cane he was as strong and as 
spry as anyone. His eyes burned with his fervour, his gestures were 

quick, his walk nervous. . . 

Like a stage star making his appearance in an ancient vehicle, 

Sorqaq was the last man to enter the house, and he was announced 
three times before he finally arrived. He greeted us all by saying 



that we were a pack of fools to have come: what he proposed to 
do was nothing, and furthermore he could not even do it. 

He peeled off his clothes, which were taken by Krilerneq, and 
sat stark naked. Krilerneq then took up several sealskin lines and 
bound him tight, tying his arms beside his body and binding his 
legs together, the thongs cutting deep into his muscles. The old 
man held himself rigid during this process. Occasionally a deep 
sigh escaped him. 

When there were no more lines at hand, Krilerneq placed his 
drum and a large section of dried sealskin beside him on the ledge. 
The lights were extinguished and the only illumination came from 
one tiny flame. We could barely make out each other’s faces; we 
could see nothing distinctly. 

Then Krilerneq took his place among us to make sure that no 
one approached the angakok, for it would mean death. 

After a few minutes of utter silence we heard Sorqaq’s voice 
in song. It was weak and quavery, but slowly grew stronger and 
seemed to emanate from different parts of the igloo. After a mo¬ 
ment we heard the voice of the drum, as if beaten by a padded 
stick, and slowly its sound, too, grew in volume, until the house 
was filled with the song, the crashing of the drum and the rattling 
of the dry skin, now over our heads, now beneath our feet! 

The noise was almost unbearable, and I took hold of Kriler¬ 
neq s arm, pretending fright. Actually I wanted to ascertain 
whether 01 not he was contributing to the noise. Obviously he 
was not. 

How long the din lasted I am unable to tell. I remember that 
when it finally calmed I felt as if I had been dreaming. By now 
all of us had joined in Sorqaq’s song, but slowly it seemed that 
the voice of the angakok was fading away. At last I definitely 
felt that it reached us through the walls of the igloo, perhaps 

from above or below. And then suddenly we could hear him no 

None of us realized what had happened or when it had hap¬ 
pened, but when Krilerneq turned up the flame so that it was 
possible to see a little clearer—there was no Sorqaq on the ledge. 

The drum was there and the skin was there, but that was all. 
I was intoxicated by the heat and the odour of bodies and the 
song, and perhaps I did not examine the igloo carefully enough. 
But I did look at the tapestry to see if he could be hidden behind 
it, and he was not. 

All of us sat there singing as we had before. Ecstasy was upon 
the face of eveiy man and woman. Their cheeks were swollen, 
their eyes bright and shining. Their mouths hung open, and their 
bodies were naked from the waist up in order to endure the heat. 
They swayed back and forth to the rhythm of the song, and their 
heads maiked the double beats. No one seemed to see anything, 
but merely to use his eyes as beacon lights. In the middle of the 
floor was Krilerneq writhing and twisting like a dancer. 

Beside me sat a young girl, Ivaloo. Her naked body was pressed 
against mine, and her strong young scent swept over me. I tried 



to speak to her, but she did not hear. Instead, her eyes followed 
Krilerneq directly in front of us. Her long hair sprayed loose from 
the knot on her head, and swung from side to side as she sang. 
The rhythmic swish of her hair made me as senseless as the rest 
of them. . . . 

When I looked into the faces of these people I could scarcely 
recognize them as the calm, quiet friends who came down to 
Thule to trade with us. Whence has come this leaning, toward 
mysticism? No one knows the origin of the Eskimo, but it is not 
difficult to trace them to a moderate climate; many of their tra¬ 
ditions derive from the worship of trees, snakes, and frogs. Per¬ 
haps they were Asiatics originally and have drawn from the Far 
East their reliance upon the supernatural. Here I saw them 
caught up by a spirit which they could not possibly understand, 
the prey to emotions and passions which in everyday life would 
puzzle them. 

The song continued, and I fell completely under the power of 
the spirit. No longer was I able to observe dispassionately what 
occurred. Ivaloo lay naked across me, and I could feel someone 
else chewing my hair, clawing my face. The noise, the odour of 
the bodies, and the mystery of the moment caught me completely 

Then suddenly all was changed. Krilerneq, who had been the 
leader of the madness, announced that Sorqaq was trying to 

He beseeched us all to take our original positions and told us to 
sit up and sing. No thoughts should concern us but those of the 
angakok, who was at this moment fighting his way up through 
the granite beneath the igloo. We were as yet unable to hear him, 
but Krilerneq, who had himself made the pilgrimage a number 
of times, said that he could feel his imminent arrival, and com¬ 
plained over the suffering he was undergoing. Krilerneq, being 
the assistant, shared the travail of his friend who had to swim 
through the rocks as if they were water. ... 

“ Quiet! Quiet! The shadow is ripened. The shadow is 

ripened.” ... 

We all listened, and as from afar off we could hear Sorqaq’s 
voice. Krilerneq extinguished the light completely, since no one 
must look upon the angakok “ muscle naked ”—he has been forced 
to leave his skin when descending into the ground—lest he 
die. ... 

But magically we knew at last that he had returned—from the 
sky or from the depths his “ shadow ” had “ ripened. The igloo 
reverberated with the noise of his drum and the rattle of the 
crackling sealskin sometimes over our heads, sometimes under our 
feet. I raised my hand to try to grasp the skin and received such 
a blow on my arm that the bone was almost shattered. Hell it¬ 
self had suddenly come to earth. 

And then it all stopped. Krilerneq murmured a long rigmarole, 
and the igloo was quiet save for the crying of the children. They 
may have been crying the whole time, but no one had known it. 



Krilerneq’s droning voice prayed to the supposedly present anga- 
kok to learn what secrets he had learned concerning the cause of 
the accidents. 

Sorqaq’s voice answered: “ Three deaths are still to come. The 
Great Nature is embarrassed by the white men who have come to 
live with us, and refuses to betray the real reason for its anger. 
But no great disaster will come to us if the women of the tribe 
refrain from eating meat of the female walrus until the sun sets 
again in the fall.” 

The angakok had done his duty and the performance was over. 
I have no idea how long it had lasted. Some one brought fire from 
the next igloo and lighted the lamps. 

There was Sorqaq sitting on the ledge still wrapped in his many 
strands of sealskin. I did not have the opportunity of examining 
him to see whether he had been free and bound again. He was 
extremely weak, covered with sweat, and spittle ran down his chest. 
Krilerneq warned me not to touch Sorqaq as the fire from the earth 
was still in him, and would be until he moved again. 

He sat quiet until Krilerneq removed the lines, then fell back 
and lay in a coma. At last he opened his eyes. His voice was weak 
and his mouth dry. He tried to smile as he saw me. 

“J us t lies and bunk, the whole thing! ” he said. “Do not be¬ 
lieve in anything. I am no angakok. I speak nothing but lies. The 
wisdom of the forefathers is not in me! ” 

He fell back again, and we all assured each other that we had 
indeed witnessed an amazing thing and been in the presence of 
truth itself. 

Next day I tried to talk with the natives about yesterday’s per¬ 
formance, but they were mute. Ivaloo and my hostess, Inuaho, 
said it made them realize I was a white man—an Eskimo would 
not want to discuss things which were never mentioned, only 

Fieuchen also recounts a poignant tragedy which occurred one 
day when some Eskimo children, playing at a form of dervish 
dangling, let it get out of hand. The children as well as the grown¬ 
ups incline to mysticism, and one of the tricks by which they pass 
into unconsciousness and trance is to hang themselves by their 
hoods. Says Mr Freuchen: 

When the hoods tighten about their necks blood is kept from 
their heads and they eventually lose consciousness. The other chil- 

dien in the house take them down as soon as their faces turn 

The state of unconsciousness is so delightful, the children say, 
that they play this game at every opportunity, over and over again. 
They played it on the day Angudluk and his wife were away 

Angudluk’s son was the largest child in the group. One after 
another he hung the smaller children up and lifted them down 
when they were purple, and laid them on the ledge to recover. 
When all of them had had their turn he helped them to hang 
him up. Eventually he grew purple in the face and kicked his 
legs as the signal to be taken down. The children tried to lift him 



off the hook, but he was too heavy. They made every effort and 
still could not lift him, and, as he soon stopped kicking and thresh¬ 
ing about, the children forgot about him and ran out-of-doors to 
play, leaving him hanging in front of the window over the door. 

When the sledges came home the mother cared for the dogs, 
and Angudluk, cold from sitting all day, hurried inside. He 
crawled through the tunnelled entrance and saw the feet of his 
son hanging down over the doorhole. ... 

We saw the sad little funeral procession. Only the best skins 
were used as a coffin. The father drove the dogs up into the hills, 
and some of them turned stubborn and bolted. Everyone had to 
stop and punish the dogs, whose howling added to the doleful¬ 
ness of the occasion. The poor family, whose privations were 
stringent enough already, left many gifts for the boy, especially 
a little gun he had wanted, a big knife, and the pipes and to¬ 
bacco belonging to the whole family—he would be there a long 
time and need all these things. All the mittens which had been 
used in constructing his stony grave were left also. 1 

1 By permission of the author and Messrs William Heinemann, Ltd. 



William Seabrook is, perhaps, the most un¬ 
conventional traveller in the world. After 
receiving his education at the Southern 
Universities of America, he came to Europe 
and worked his way through Geneva Uni¬ 
versity. He has always been keenly interested 
in the occult and has had strange adventures 
among the Arabs, the Voodoo-worshippers 
of Haiti, and the primitive native tribes of 
the Ivory Coast. At one period he lived in 
a vast, part'y-ruined castle on a mountain- 
top near Toulon. Visible ten miles out at 
sea, this castle was built between the eighth 
and the eleventh centuries by the Lords of 
Var, who erected it on top of a Roman fort. 
The castle possessed an added interest for 
him, in view of his investigations into magic 
and sorcery, for at certain times throughout 
the year the peasants come from miles 
around to conduct ceremonies of ancient 
black magic on its battlements. Seabrook 
now lives in Connecticut. 


Seabrook’s Travel Books 

exactly as originally published at 10/6 or more — 
are now obtainable in 



“ An astonishing narrative of travel on the Ivory Coast. Witchcraft 
and sorcery in the jungle, cannibalism, magic jugglery with human bodies 
impaled on swords, an ex-monk who went native, blood-sacrifices and 
symbolism—page after page astounds the reader.”— Sphere. 

4th Large Impression 


“ Haiti is the magic island, and no white man had ever more mysterious 
experiences to record of that strange home of superstition and horror.”— 
Daily Telegraph. 

“ This is a disgusting book. I must admit, however, that it is an ex¬ 
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blood-sacrifice with a sufficient sense of the dramatic to be effective and 
yet not appear melodramatic. But this is not a book for people with weak 
stomachs.”— Daily News. 4th Impression 



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Seabrook, whose volume is really an extremely fascinating one.”— Daily 
Mail. ~ 4th Impression 



“ Father Dupuis-Yakouba began life as a priest, but he married a black 
African woman and has had thirty children, ft is an amazing story.”— 
Dr. J. M. Bulloch ( Daily Dispatch).